Short-form agreement also involves ESPN

Just days after word leaked that Disney was in talks to join the Hulu online video service, the conglom’s Disney/ABC TV Group and ESPN have sealed a separate deal with YouTube.

Under the pact, YouTube will launch several channels featuring shortform programming from both ESPN and Disney/ABC. Disney Media Networks will sell its own advertising inventory on the channels in a revenue-sharing arrangement with YouTube parent Google.

The deal serves the interests of both sides, as Google is looking to squeeze more revenue out of its Internet vid titan while Disney/ABC is looking for wider Web distribution of its exclusive program content. YouTube has a similar pact with CBS.

Talks to partner with NBC Universal and News Corp. on Hulu are ongoing and unrelated to the YouTube pact. Disney has said that it’s looking to expand beyond its own media player and onto more ad-supported Web streaming platforms.

“This deal provides us with the opportunity to reach a broader online audience, to experiment with different monetization models and to extend the reach of our advertisers within branded environments that they most desire,” said Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney, who also serves as prexy of the Disney/ABC Television Group.

For Google, the deal gives it additional content for YouTube — and showcases the site as a destination that can be easily monetized — in the wake of rapidly growing rival upstarts like Hulu.

David Eun, the VP of strategic partnerships at Google, said YouTube provided content owners like Disney/ABC and ESPN “innovative monetization options, more control over their online content and granular insight into how audiences are interacting with their videos.”

At launch, advertising will consist of display ads and YouTube’s “in-video overlays.” But the channels are expected to eventually start utilizing pre-roll advertising.

ESPN’s YouTube channel will launch next month, while channels featuring ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Family and SoapNet content will roll out in early May.

The shortform videos will all be less than five minutes in length, and will consist of content such as webisodes, sneak previews, episode recaps and other original Web content that has appeared on ABC.com. That includes programming such as the “Ugly Betty”- related web series “Mode After Hours.” Other fare includes ABC News packages and highlights from interviews.

The Disney/ABC TV fare will be streamed through YouTube’s player; the different channels will link back to websites such as ABC.com (where full episodes can be viewed).

ESPN’s channel on YouTube, meanwhile, will incorporate the sports cabler’s video player; additional shortform ESPN content also will be available on the YouTube player.

Disney Media Networks co-chair George Bodenheimer, who serves as prexy of ESPN and ABC Sports, called the deal “an extraordinary opportunity for ESPN to create new revenue streams and new value to advertisers.”

Longform content will not be included in the arrangement announced Monday — but given the fast-changing world of Internet video, such an arrangement might be in the offing down the road.

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