Google sets spotlight on videos

Search to include movies from many sites

Google nudged video closer to center stage on Wednesday, announcing that it would spotlight video content from YouTube, Metacafe, iFilm and other sites on its main search page. Move will likely drive lots more eyeballs to Internet video given that Google is the most-visited site on the Web, serving more than 500 million visitors a month.

Before Google unveiled its new “universal search” strategy on Wednesday, video search had been squirreled away on a less prominent part of its site, and the search results included only clips that could be found on Google Video or YouTube, the vid-sharing site acquired last October by the Silicon Valley search giant.

In a demonstration at Google HQ Wednesday, veep Marissa Mayer showed how a search for “Nosferatu” brought up not just the Internet Movie Database listing for the vampire pic but also a complete video of the 1922 feature, now in the public domain and hosted on Google Video.

Interestingly, other searches conducted later in the day on Google returned results from Atom Films, showing a thumbnail from the video and linking out to that site. Atom Films is owned by Viacom, which is currently suing Google for alleged “massive copyright infringement,” after asking YouTube to yank clips of Viacom content.

Google exec Mayer said she didn’t think the search engine’s new strategy would rile media companies, who’d benefit by seeing a bigger audience: “Providing traffic and distribution goes a long way,” she said. Mayer said Google wanted to help users find video on a wide range of sites, but she wasn’t specific about which “five or six sites” would initially be included in search results. On Wednesday, it seemed that no videos from the major networks were included in search results yet.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin appeared at Wednesday’s press event in biking gear and rumpled hair. He said, “We abide by copyright, simply searching what’s available on those sites (that offer video).”

Independent vid sites may be the biggest beneficiaries of Google’s shift. TurnHere CEO Brad Inman said his company, which produces videos about travel destinations and books, was hopeful that its audience would grow in the wake of Google’s announcement. But he noted that the losers could include stand-alone video search sites like Blinkx, as well as online pioneer AOL, which invested early on in video search, buying two startup companies.

Google’s market share dwarfs that of all other search sites combined, making it a formidable competitor.

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