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Google plans to turn its YouTube property into something more like a traditional TV network by revamping the site to feature topic-specific channels and pouring up to $100 million into the production of original content, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sources in the know tell the WSJ that Google is hoping to make YouTube more of a destination site for couch potatoes. The company is planning for the inevitable point when most consumers have access to YouTube in their living room. The changes would also tempt users to spend more time on YouTube and convince advertisers to spend more on the video site. And of course, it would be a way for Google to combat Netflix’s dominance when it comes to feature-length videos.

If true, the news would represent a major shift for YouTube, which started out as a hotbed for personal and pirated video. After clashing with content creators like Viacom for years, and after noble attempts to deliver legal content with rentals, YouTube has now matured to the point where it can deliver high-quality original content to all of our screens.

The YouTube revamp would also be a boon to Google TV, Google’s attempt to unify traditional television and web content (which I liked, but thought needed improvement). Google has already launched YouTube Leanback (pictured above) as an optimized way to experience the site on TVs, but the addition of channels and original content certainly won’t hurt.

At the moment, it sounds like the channels will be similar to actual television channels. Google hopes that you’ll tune into the sports or entertainment channel just as you would ESPN or MTV. That means the company also needs to work on managing content better so that viewers don’t feel the need to tune out.

The WSJ says that the YouTube changes will roll out over time, starting towards the end of 2011.

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