Music industry's move to get more listeners online may threaten YouTube

Erik Huggers, CEO, Vevo
Misha Friedman | Bloomberg | Getty Images

YouTube is one of the dominant places to watch and listen to music online, but now the music industry is looking to get back some of the listeners it lost to that platform.

Music video hosting service Vevo, which was launched in 2009 by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, announced its "Watch Party" platform on Thursday. The service allows viewers to chat, create video playlists and simultaneously watch videos with their friends, but on the Vevo platform.

"We do want to create some things to give some exclusivity to using Vevo owned and operated," Jon Carvill, Vevo vice president of communications, told CNBC at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. "If they want to go watch the videos on YouTube, obviously our users can do so as well, but we want to give them a reason to come to Vevo."

Watch Party notably cuts out YouTube, which doesn't have a co-viewing feature. The product will launch in April on desktop, with plans for mobile in the works.

Currently, Vevo-owned music channels make up a sizable chunk of YouTube's views. According to comScore data from October, 43 percent of YouTube's monthly U.S. audience watches Vevo videos. Globally, it says it gets 21 billion views globally a month across all platforms.

Vevo has a licensing agreement with Warner Music Group, giving it the rights to videos from the three largest record companies. It also counts Abu Dhabi Media and Google as investors, the latter of which bought about 7 percent of the company in 2013 as part of a deal to keep Vevo's videos on YouTube, according to TechCrunch.

The company has actively been trying to draw users to its own platforms, including a reboot in July with its own app. While most of its advertising revenue comes from YouTube videos , there's an opportunity to have more profit if it can build viewership on its own terms.

"YouTube is a really important commercial partner and continues to be a strong partnership," Carvill said. "But really for Vevo, we wanted a strong set of owned-and-operated properties across desktop, mobile and the web which would be the best choice for people who really love music videos to enjoy that content."