Life on and around YouTube is changing rapidly. It seems like only yesterday that Google acquired the video site and instituted its partner program to allow content creators to share in the ad revenue generated by their videos. Today some of those same content creators adorn billboards and star in TV commercials. In a sign of the changing times, Bing Chen, head of Creator Development and one of the leading lights of that evolution from creator to star, has announced his departure from YouTube.
True to form, Chen announced his departure with little preamble via a tweet and a lengthy blog post in which he reviews his considerable history with YouTube and the stars and executives that have shaped it over the years. Over the years Chen has worked with a host of YouTube luminaries including the now ubiquitous Michelle Phan, Ryan Higa, Jenna Marbles, and Freddy Wong. He has been a fixture at every VidCon since the even’s inception and was the architect of YouTube’s first keynote speech at the conference. What is noticeably absent from this recounting of Chen’s commendable career is a reason for his apparently abrupt departure.
Most industry outlets have linked Chen’s sudden exit to the appointment of Susan Wojcicki as YouTube’s new CEO. It’s equally likely that after seeing numerous structural changes at YouTube over the last year Chen decided that the time was right to move on. His tenure at Google has been a long one by tech industry standards and the rapid expansion of the online video sector make now a particularly opportune time to strike out on one’s own.
While there has been no direct mention of what Chen’s next move will be, it is likely to involve online video in some capacity. Chen closes his blog post by promising to attend VidCon, signaling a continued interest in digital video content. A statement released by Chen’s representative noted that Chen would be moving on to “A stealth start-up in an industry he knows very well.” Aside from his work at Google Chen’s previous career experience includes brief tenures as a programming executive for the Walt Disney Company and ABC Network Studios, so it is unlikely he will be exiting the field of digital video content any time soon.
Will Chen really be venturing off to an independent mystery start-up? An industry source who spoke to Tubegeeks on the condition of anonymity told us that it’s no coincidence that Bing name checked former Google exec and current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in his parting post. Chen was hired during Mayer’s tenure at Google and our source says that the “stealth startup” he plans to join is really Yahoo’s soon to be unveiled YouTube competitor. If there’s any truth to this speculation then it would certainly track with the widely reported rumors that Yahoo has approached some of YouTube’s top creators with exclusive content deals. What better way to make those creators feel at home than to have the longtime face of YouTube’s creator relations spearheading the program? Last week, during their Newfronts presentation, Marissa Mayer made it clear that Yahoo is looking to claim a large chunk of territory in the online video world, but it’s presentations focused mainly on original programming designed to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Could an all-out attack on YouTube, led by one their own former generals, be the next move?