Chad Hurley and Steven Shih Chen, two former PayPal colleagues who co-founded YouTube in 2005, were once so reviled in traditional-media circles that their company elicited a billion-dollar lawsuit by Viacom.
Today, they were named as recipients of Emmy Awards for Lifetime Achievement.
The entrepreneurs, who founded the company with Jawed Karim, will collect their statuettes at next month’s NAB Show. The annual confab has traditionally centered on broadcast television but increasingly showcases technology, drawing a crowd of attendees whose size is exceeded only by CES.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said Hurley and Chen will be honored at the 70th annual Technology & Engineering Emmys in Las Vegas. When Google bought the initially money-losing site in 2006, it was known for user-generated content and most Wall Street analysts and industry observers questioned its long-term profit potential. In the years since, it has reached 1.3 billion active users. About 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and almost 5 billion videos are viewed every day.
Cat videos remain common on the platform, but established brands use it as a promotional vehicle and a host of grass-roots stars have come to wield increasing influence. Producers are making shows for subscription service YouTube Premium, which is run by veteran TV network executive Susanne Daniels. A “skinny bundle” of channels, YouTube TV, launched in 2017 and has recently surpassed 1 million subscribers.
Hurley and Chen, who went their separate ways in business in 2014, have both remained involved in technology and media, but not in the same way they were in building YouTube. Many of the traditional TV executives who once saw YouTube as a threat have come to embrace its technical innovations and youth-skewing potency. Viacom settled its long-running lawsuit against the digital company in 2014, winning no damages in the end.
“The success of YouTube and the way it has revolutionized the way the average consumer can view, create and engage with an audience of millions is extraordinary,” Adam Sharp, President & CEO of NATAS. “Hurley and Chen are a testament to the story of the American technology entrepreneur who imagine something and through hard work and perseverance makes that dream a reality, not only creating a new method of media distribution for a wide audience, but enabling the true democratization of television.”
Charles Jablonski, NATAS Technology & Engineering Committee Chairman Emeritus, called YouTube “one of this generation’s masterpieces of scale and simplicity” whose effect on the traditional TV ecosystem is far more positive than initially feared. “Television now has the ability to create, store, and distribute material without the need of an intermediate party to gate-keep material to consumers,” he said.