ANGELES — Google has moved a step closer to
transforming the historic Spruce Goose hangar in the
Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles into a
state-of-the-art office and production facility, the
latest sign of how tech giants are expanding their
presence in Hollywood’s backyard.
employees recently moved into a new office inside the
hangar, where aviation pioneer Howard Hughes built his
famous wooden airplane in the 1940s.
hangar and nearby buildings are part of an ambitious
project Google launched two years ago to build a complex
of more than 450,000 square feet that will house office
space and productions for its YouTube entertainment
campus encompasses four floors of office space connected
by elevated walkways, food spots, a fitness center and
event space. Plans approved by Los Angeles in 2016 also
provide for 140,582 square feet of floor space for
soundstages, city records show. Those stages are
expected to open by next summer.
YouTube, we’re remaking entertainment for the digital
age, and we’re thrilled to have such a unique
production facility at our fingertips,” Susanne
Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content,
said in a statement. “We can’t wait to open the
doors to our new soundstages next summer so the creative
voices with whom we work can create the authentic,
diverse and global originals that speak directly to the
production space symbolizes YouTube’s ambition to
expand its subscription business with a range of
original productions. YouTube got its start in
user-generated videos 13 years ago, but since then, the
San Bruno company has evolved to become its own version
of a television network, competing for television ad
dollars and audiences.
Playa Vista complex also significantly expands
Google’s presence in the region. Mountain View-based
Google already occupies 305,000 square feet of office
space in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties,
according to CoStar Group, which tracks real estate
data. In addition to Playa Vista, Google has offices in
Venice and Beverly Hills. The tech giant employs about
1,000 people in Los Angeles.
Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic
building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve
as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic
success for years to come,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric
people shift their video viewing to smartphones,
companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are
eager to profit off those customers by giving them
exclusive content, either by charging subscriptions or
offering shows for free with ads. As a result, tech
giants are spending billions of dollars on original
content and opening beachheads in the entertainment
capital of the world.
recently leased a 13-floor office tower on Sunset
Boulevard. In January, Apple swooped in and signed a
lease at a Culver City building initially intended for
HBO. Last year, Amazon Studios said it would move into
the historic Culver Studios, where “Gone With the
Wind” was filmed.
the number of jobs in L.A. County’s film and digital
media industry grew to 265,200, up 23 percent from 2011,
according to research firm Beacon Economics.
very clearly leading to more employment shifting to that
(sector),” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of
the Milken Institute’s Center for Regional Economics
and California Center.
hangar was once home to the H-4 Hercules, known as the
Spruce Goose, the nation’s largest wooden airplane
developed during World War II, when Southern
California’s aviation economy was booming.
the 200-ton plane designed by Howard Hughes took its
only flight, of less than a minute, an achievement some
thought was impossible. For years, the site was popular
as a studio where such movies as “Titanic” and
“Transformers” were filmed.
history in Playa Vista dates from 2012, when it opened
its first 41,000-square-foot production facility near
the Spruce Goose hangar.
location was followed by similar sites in cities such as
Tokyo and Dubai, where video creators could get access
to production equipment.
Spruce Goose hangar is owned by Japanese corporate
investor ASO Group, which bought the property, and three
other nearby buildings, for more than $300 million in
has a 16-year lease, with the rights to purchase the
property after its lease expires, the Los Angeles Times
reported. In June, the city of Los Angeles granted
temporary occupancy for the new office.
ambitions are huge. It already has the world’s largest
video library, with more than 400 hours of video
uploaded every minute, from highly produced music videos
to low-budget cat videos shot on a smartphone.
the years, YouTube has attempted to cement itself more
as a television network, hiring entertainment executives
like Daniels, a former MTV programming chief, and
rolling out an $11.99 monthly music and video
subscription service, YouTube Premium.
has launched more than 100 original productions and
reportedly will invest hundreds of millions of dollars
in shows and films this year.
addition to its flagship video business, YouTube last
year also introduced YouTube TV, a live TV service that
includes channels like CNN and Telemundo.
company has invested in full-scale TV productions,
including “Cobra Kai,” a 10-episode sequel to the
1984 cult classic “Karate Kid,” and “Step Up: High
Water,” a show based on the “Step Up” movie
franchise that counts actor Channing Tatum as one of its
are trying to do a number of things,” said Paul Verna,
a principal analyst at research firm EMarketer. “They
want to be a streaming service. They definitely want to
be that replacement for cable.”
YouTube faces stiff competition from social media rivals
Facebook and Snap. Facebook is investing as much as $1
billion in original content this year and Snapchat is
hosting short-form content.
following YouTube’s original business model of selling
ads against free video content.
has the advantage of vast reach: Its audience is
estimated at nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide,
representing 66 percent of the world’s digital video
viewers, according to EMarketer. This year, YouTube is
expected to bring in roughly $9.5 billion in worldwide
ad revenue, up 22 percent from a year ago, according to
the research firm.
the video giant has faced some hurdles. Its music and
video subscription service YouTube Premium has changed
its name so many times that Verna says he’s had
“whiplash.” Advertisers slammed YouTube last year
when ads appeared next to videos supporting hate speech
and video creators then complained when ads on their
videos were stripped when YouTube algorithms deemed the
content inappropriate. YouTube said it would hire
thousands of content moderators to help sift through
businesses and individual video creators in Southern
California rely on YouTube for revenue. But some
analysts are skeptical about how sustainable that
business model is.
now, YouTube has done really well because of the novelty
and the fact that this is the most widely accessible
platform for anybody who wants to create content and get
noticed,” Klowden said. “The question is, for many
of the people who do YouTube content, does it pay enough
to be a full-time job? It’s not clear that, for more
than a certain group, it does.”
remains bullish on the future. Chief Executive Susan
Wojcicki told Wired in a March interview that five years
from now YouTube will continue to “grow in the way it
has, with even more sets of video, even higher quality
of production, (with a) larger diverse set of content
from all over the world.”
for YouTube content continues to grow for companies like
Santa Monica-based Tastemade, which produces food and
travel videos for digital media platforms.
company, which began in 2012 with four employees, had
early success on YouTube with shows such as “Raw.
Vegan. Not Gross.” that quickly gained a global
following, said Oren Katzeff, Tastemade’s head of
programming. Today, the business employs about 150
month, Tastemade premiered one of its shows, “Basic
Versus Baller: Travel at Any Cost,” inside Playa
Vista’s original YouTube Space. But there weren’t
enough chairs in the theater for Tastemade’s 75
guests. That won’t be a problem in the spacious new
know how to create a great, welcoming-looking space,”