YouTube is wading deeper into longform waters.
The popular vid-sharing site, still known predominantly for user-generated fare, has begun streaming full episodes from vintage CBS skeins and current Showtime series in its latest bid to generate more coin. The initiative, an outgrowth of the Google-backed site’s partnership with the CBS Audience Network, kicks off with the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Star Trek” series, “The Young and the Restless” plus season premieres from Showtime’s “Dexter” and “Californication.”
Netco expects to offer more TV skeins and vintage films from additional partners in coming months. It is part of an overall push to add more Hollywood programming to the site; such programming is considered a greater lure for advertisers than user-generated fare, which some brands consider dicey and unpredictable.
YouTube senior project manager Shiva Rajaraman said the company decided to start with these skeins because their clips are so popular on the site.
“Users are clamoring for them night and day,” he said.
CBS will sell the ads for the episodes, with YouTube getting a cut from any monies collected. The ads will appear as pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll. Full-length episodes are already available for streaming on other sites, including CBS.com and the IMDb.
YouTube is negotiating with other partners to add full-length programming to the site, but the company declined to say more about them. Lionsgate would seem a likely candidate given its relationship with the Netco, but other networks and studios may be harder to convince: Although the site has made strides in filtering unauthorized clips, some digital execs believe it could do more. Viacom has sued parent Google and YouTube for $1 billion over copyright infringement claims.
Rajaraman did indicate that the pics added would likely be library titles rather than new theatricals.
“The key thing would be our ability to bring a broad audience for a film that had limited distribution,” he said. “In this case, it’s a good fit for YouTube to have a deal with library films.”
YouTube launched a Screening Room for indie pics earlier this year, but he said the goal is to integrate feature films more fully into the site. Netco bowed a new “theater view” player designed for longform programming last week.
By going after longform programming, YouTube will more directly compete against Hulu, the joint venture of News Corp. and NBC Universal. That popular site streams current and vintage skeins and pics. Like YouTube, it is ad supported.