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Scheduled programming, standardised show lengths and ad breaks to set your watch by – the rigid structures of traditional broadcasting may not seem like a suitable place to take inspiration from in the free and flexible world of online video.

But magazine publisher Future Publishing has found that important lessons from TV can be applied to their YouTube channels.

When David Boddington, Future's head of video for games and film, started at the publisher five years ago one of the first projects he worked on was a weekly, 45 minute show on the Playstation network.

Having previously worked for Endemol, Sky and the History Channel, he said this was a "good start to embracing digital broadcast methods" as the publisher began to take online video, and YouTube in particular, much more seriously.

People still crave and want that water cooler momentDavid Boddington, Future Publishing
Then one year ago Future's CVG YouTube channel, for computer and video games, started running a weekly show on Wednesdays around the launch of Grand Theft Auto Five. Titled "GTA 5 o'clock", the show would give news, updates and insights into the forthcoming game. Viewing figures rocketed.

"Episodes would last between half an hour and well over an hour and we saw more and more people tuning in and demanding this content," said Boddington.

"We saw great returns both in terms of engagement, interaction and commenting and people coming to the channel especially for the show because they knew it was going to drop."

Occasionally the team might be "a little bit guilty" of publishing the video five or 10 minutes late, said Boddington, but doing so only heightened the demand and commenters were regularly seen on other channels asking why it hadn't been uploaded if it was late.

"That show, along with others, has really helped to grow CVG's channel," Boddington said, "and it's because of this regular programming and in-depth programming that we've seen CVG's subscriber base go from 30,000 in January to nearly 200,000. In September alone we had over 11 million views on the channel."

Granted, Grand Theft Auto Five was one of the most hotly anticipated titles in gaming history and broke six sales world records on release, but Future built around this popular show to create a "suite of weekly content" that keeps viewers coming back.

"The truth is people still do consume stuff in a way that is like the old broadcast ways, because people do crave and do want that water cooler moment," Boddington said.

"Like Breaking Bad, people were so up-to-date with it and people were consuming it as soon as they possibly could because they wanted to join in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with their friends. The same thing, to some degree, is true of certain programming trends on YouTube."

For "hardcore" parts of the audience, whether that means hardcore subscribers to the channel or those that are particularly interested in a topic, getting the information as early as possible is important as they want to consume it as fast as possible, said Boddington.

When you signpost the content it's clearly understandable to your audience that if they want to watch it dead at that time then they're able toDavid Boddington, Future Publishing
For the more casual viewer it lets them know when there will be a new episode to watch "at their leisure", he said, while giving them a reason to come back and check for more episodes of shows they might have enjoyed in the past.

"When you signpost the content it's clearly understandable to your audience that if they want to watch it dead at that time then they're able to," Boddington said, "but if they want to watch it within the next few days then, again, they've got a clear marker."

For GTA 5 o'clock the "signposting" of scheduling is built into the title, but social media accounts were created for both this flagship show and others to promote them. They were advertised on the CVG website and now draw an audience from around the world who know there will be regular updates on topics they are interested in.

"When you're talking about this kind of scale and this kind of engaged audience that you're delivering regular content to," said Boddington, "suddenly these numbers really have a lot of meaning and it becomes a really important place for, not just video, but all kinds of media communication."

Boddington was speaking as part of a Journalism.co.uk podcast. A broader look at how different magazine publishers are approaching online video is available here.

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