4,000 full-length episodes available for free

LONDON — The U.K. version of YouTube bowed a section of its site Thursday that allows users for the first time to watch full-length TV shows.

The move is the first fruits of the recent deal in Blighty between YouTube and local terrestrial web Channel 4.

The Shows portal gives auds almost 5,000 videos (of which around 4,000 are full-length programs) from more than 60 of YouTube’s commercial partners, including BBC Worldwide and Turner. Overall, more than 3,000 hours of material is available.

The Shows section of the British website will be boosted early in the New Year when a fuller range of Channel 4 programs goes online via YouTube. Complete programs available from Nov. 19 include such high-profile U.K. fare as comedy “Peep Show,” cookery vehicle “Gordon Ramsay’s F Word” and veteran Fremantle show “Baywatch.”

Fare from local animation studio Aardman, U.K. news org ITN and Al Jazeera are also available.

Users can watch the material for free, but where the right rights owner has okayed it, shows are advertising-supported.

Channel 4’s material is carrying ads from the likes of Virgin Media, Universal, Orange, Samsung and Pepsi.

Google, YouTube’s parent company, needs to convince rights holders they can earn revenue from the ad breaks around their YouTube content, rather than the rights owners removing their videos for infringing copyright.

Despite YouTube’s popularity, with an estimated one billion streams accessed every day globally, the site remains unprofitable.

Channel 4’s deal with YouTube, regarded as a landmark in the emergence of video-on-demand in the U.K., involves a catch-up service plus around 3,000 hours of archive.

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