Just yesterday, it was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that signed a deal with YouTube, allowing the video site to run full-length versions of movies (although the initial selection was somewhat less than stellar). Today, the site announced a deal with Freemantle Productions, the creators of the American Idol reality-show franchise, that will see the production company create a channel for all of its existing shows, but also a new channel for exclusive content that it will create specifically for YouTube.
Soon, YouTube will be carrying ad-supported TV shows from CBS, clips from LionsGate movies with pre-rolls and post-rolls, full-length movies from MGM and exclusive content from one of the world’s leading reality-show producers. Not bad for a site that started with video clips of funny cats and skateboard pratfalls, and is still considered by some to be a kind of trailer-park ghetto of video (yes, Mark Cuban, we’re looking at you). With Hulu.com adding plenty of mainstream content too, the competition in online video definitely seems to be heating up.
According to the New York Times, the rumours about YouTube adding full-length movies are about to come true — sort of. The paper says that MGM will announce a deal with the video site on Monday to run some full TV shows and also some movies, with ads appearing alongside them. But the content isn’t really much to write home about:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios will kick off the partnership by posting episodes of its decade-old â€œAmerican Gladiatorsâ€ program to YouTube, along with full-length action films like â€œBulletproof Monkâ€ and â€œThe Magnificent Sevenâ€ and clips from popular movies like â€œLegally Blonde.â€
Wow — the chance to watch old episodes of American Gladiators and Bulletproof Monk. Hold me back.
Greg Sandoval at CNET had a story today saying that he heard from a couple of sources close to YouTube that the company will soon be launching full-length movies. This led to a raft of posts echoing the story, most of which mentioned that this seemed like a plausible rumour — since YouTube now offers full-length TV shows from a couple of networks, and also has a “theater” setting that offers a wider viewer and slightly better quality. But only a couple of blogs that mentioned the story raised what I think is the most important issue: Can YouTube’s infrastructure even handle the real-time streaming of full-length movies?
Robert McLaws, for example, mentioned what I think is a pretty routine occurrence for most people when watching YouTube videos, and that’s the “buffering” message (I get that a fair bit even though I have an 8-megabit connection). John Brandon at Computerworld mentioned the crappy quality of most YouTube videos, and Nick Carlson at Silicon Alley Insider noted that YouTube videos aren’t actually streamed, but are downloaded to the user’s computer — meaning they can easily be copied.
It’s almost too good (or bad) to be believed: John McCain, the U.S. presidential candidate who as a senator supported the draconian rules included in Digital Millennium Copyright Act, now finds himself begging YouTube to stop removing his campaign’s video clips. YouTube has been taking them down because they contain excerpts from news broadcasts, and broadcasters are claiming that is copyright infringement. The McCain campaign is put in the uncomfortable position of arguing that those excerpts are “fair use,” and that YouTube should knock it off.
YouTube has responded to the McCain campaign (while stifling a chuckle, perhaps?) that it can’t play favourites just because the senator is in the midst of an election campaign, and that while Mr. McCain no doubt thinks his clips are of extra importance, “there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users around the world find to be equally important.” Then comes the real zinger: YouTube’s general counsel Zahavah Levine says that: “We hope that as a content uploader, you have gained a sense of some of the challenges we face everyday in operating YouTube.” Bam.
Unless you’ve been in a coma or backpacking through Mongolia recently, you’ve probably already seen the clip from Late Night with David Letterman, in which the host of said show laces into Senator John McCain — not just once, but over and over — for skipping out on an appearance on the program. The presidential candidate said that he had to fly back to Washington because of the banking crisis, but instead showed up on TV doing an interview with Katie Couric. It was classic Letterman, and it was clear that the talk-show host wasn’t just having a laugh — McCain’s behaviour in suspending his campaign seemed to really irk Dave.
That clip has been watched more than 3 million times on YouTube, which is a big plus for the network. Except that the video that’s getting all of the views wasn’t uploaded by CBS — or was it? As Michael Learmonth describes in a piece for Advertising Age, the clip was uploaded by a user named 1970oaktree, and doesn’t have any CBS pre-roll advertising or anything like that. It also wasn’t uploaded to the official CBS channel. But 1970oaktree has only been a member of YouTube for about a week, and the Letterman video is the only thing he or she has ever uploaded.