Full press release here.
Now on the surface this time extension may not seem like such a big deal, but this timeshift brings YouTube closer to direct competition with 'regular tv' by following the 60 minute hour more closely. Act breaks are also easier to manage and are closer to the 'teaser and 4 act model.'
Imagine every week: your favorite YouTube show screens 15 mins worth. This is then re-edited into a more traditional 44 minute model for regular broadcast (unless you're in the UK where shows often run longer because let's face it, the Brits are longer-winded than their American cousins). This fits into more established rhythms of the typical viewer. That's what the web needs more of - typical viewers - those who keep coming back week after week.
Now is this a good thing? Will this make Youtube 'Television lite?' I'm not certain. However if someone gets their break by writing a Youtube show, and it demonstrates that the writer is capable of dealing with 4 act structure - then I don't see how that can be a bad thing. Having the capability of transferring your show across multiple platforms with little story confusion or translation problems is also a plus. One of the complaints regarding the generally excellent ANGEL OF DEATH was that it worked better as a serial than it did a feature.
Is this going to work for all shows? Hell, no. Nor should it.
Most comedy shows I see on the web need to be edited down severely in order to... you know... actually be funny. They should be short, sweet and gone, but for actual drama a longer running time is preferred. A bit of breathing room (unless you don't want that).
Overall though I see this as an opportunity for everyone. For viewers to get more content per view, for advertisers to get more opportunity to sell thus driving costs down, for producers and creatives to get their shows out there and be able to shift them to different media and markets in a way that is familiar to viewers.
We'll see what happens.