Google has bought 12 acres in L.A.’s Playa Vista area, across the street from its YouTube Space LA operations, a $120 million purchase that suggests a significantly bigger Los Angeles presence for the Silicon Valley-based online giant and perhaps a stronger foray into entertainment.
The Los Angeles Times reported the land buy, 12 acres just south of Jefferson Boulevard, near Centinela in the east end of Playa Vista. That entire area was once slotted for a mammoth planned studio for DreamWorks SKG before environmental, traffic and other concerns scuttled that project around the turn of the century. According to the Times, the just-purchased land is zoned for up to 900,000 square feet of office space, enough room for 6,000 employees.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti posted news of the land purchase on his Facebook page, saying the city is committed to becoming a tech jobs powerhouse on top of its entertainment jobs base: “…we’re excited to be working with Google on expanding its footprint in our city so that the entertainment capital of the world is also a leading center of innovation,” he posted.
Google’s acquisition locks up a dozen acres of vacant land next to the vast former home of the Spruce Goose, the world’s largest airplane back at the end of World War II when Howard Hughes’ Hughes Aircraft was building it for the U.S. military. That hangar, reportedly eight football fields in size, is now home to occasional film shoots and already has been partly converted to office space for a UCLA operation and other companies.
Deadline reported some months ago that Google was in early negotiations to lease that building, perhaps as part of consolidation efforts for its Los Angeles operations. According to the Times, it’s still expected to lease out that space as well as build out the parcel.
The acquisition could presage a much bigger push by Google into entertainment. The company not only has a massive investment in YouTube, where millions of people watch billions of hours of videos, but also has decided to invest heavily in fine-tuning and promoting its Google Play content store on Android-based mobile devices.
Google Play sells movies, TV shows, games, music and apps. Like Apple and Netflix, both Silicon Valley-based tech giants, having a presence in Los Angeles can be useful for connecting with entertainment, media and advertising partners.
Google also also tweaked its Android and Chrome operating systems so they do a better job sharing content purchased through Google Play across multiple Android-based devices, part of the company’s vision for making content easily available in a world where audiences watch content of many kinds on multiple screens.
The company already has the Chromecast, a $35 stick of a device that plugs into a TV’s HDMI slot to wirelessly pipe in programming, and the $99 Nexus Player, a just-released hockey-puck-sized device similar to the Apple TV that can pull down all of Google’s content plus a wide variety of “over-the-top” video programming from other sources.
Just across the street from the hangar and just-purchased parcel is YouTube Space LA, another converted Hughes hangar that houses production space provided free by YouTube to its most popular online creators in Los Angeles, increasingly the place where the biggest online names are moving.
The YouTube Space includes a series of studios, a live broadcast control room, post-production facilities, offices and a facility with a wide variety of video cameras, lights, microphones and other production tools that YouTube creators can check out for projects. It’s one of four YouTube spaces around the world.
Beyond the YouTube Space, Google currently has few hundred staff members in offices in Venice, at the former Chiat Day building designed by Frank Gehry, as well as in downtown Los Angeles.
Despite DreamWorks inability to take off, Playa Vista has increasingly become a hub for many tech-oriented companies. Facebook’s L.A. offices are less than a mile away, and video game company Konami is next door to the YouTube Space. Another video game company, Electronic Arts, has a huge game studio nearby that also houses offices for the X Prize Foundation.
The area is also home to the offices for USC’s cutting-edge research operation for immersive graphics, artificial intelligence and related whiz-bang tech, the Institute for Creative Technologies, which is substantially funded by Defense Department dollars. Recently, former Vice President Al Gore did a Q&A with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer at USC ICT, followed by a panel that also featured Disney/ABC SVP of Digital Albert Cheng. The event was sponsored by blue-chip venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.