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CBS Goes YouTubing With Full-Length TV Shows

By Chris Maxcer TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 13, 2008 1:29 PM PT

YouTube and CBS have teamed up to deliver new full-length TV programming delivered via YouTube's new Theater View style, which provides a larger video image. YouTube is testing the new format, so it may see some tweaks in the near future; however, the move represents a significant departure from the short-clip, user-generated content that turned the YouTube brand into an international video sharing powerhouse.

CBS Goes YouTubing With Full-Length TV Shows

In addition to streaming proprietary, full-length TV episodes, YouTube and CBS are running in-stream advertisements, including pre-, mid-, and post-rolls. YouTube says these embedded advertisements will only show up in long-form content, not the short, user-supplied videos that still dominate the site. To distinguish which content is full-length and ad-supported, YouTube has created new "Film Strip" icon label.

Not More of the Same

Aside from the clips snagged from television broadcasts and illicitly posted on YouTube by end users, CBS has had an "official" presence on YouTube for years, where the company has also posted its own short-form promotion clips.

"If you go there, it's not the best user experience -- you have clips garbled up, you have to click on the various channels. You still have to stay within the YouTube boundaries," Chad Cooper, director of editorial content and marketing of OVGuide.com, told TechNewsWorld.

"Traveling around the channels is not the best user experience," he added.

There's not a lot of current full-length shows yet -- viewers can get a taste with episodes of "Beverly Hills 90210," "MacGyver," and "Star Trek: The Original Series."

But Why?

CBS already streams full-length shows from its own CBS.com Web site, so why draw viewers away from it?

"If you look at YouTube's numbers, and they are pretty impressive, so CBS will want to take advantage of those views, especially since a lot of CBS content is out on YouTube, regardless of whether it's under the CBS cloud or not," Cooper said.

YouTube has 200 million unique users each month, and they watch hundreds of millions of video clips each day. This year, YouTube has reportedly been getting well over one-third of all Internet video watching traffic.

If CBS's intention is to get views, this is obviously a good play. As of yet, however, YouTube isn't the be-all, end-all to online content distribution. In fact, in one way, the partnership removes the viewer from the CBS brand, Cooper noted.

"When you play with YouTube, you associate with YouTube, and YouTube is typically known for short-form, really viral, horse-kicking-a-beaver-in-the-face comedy type videos, while CBS is episodic. It's a different experience -- you're connecting with the shows, it's professional," Cooper said, noting that CBS may be missing a chance to establish a better relationship with its viewers on its own site.

On the other hand, "What's great about this deal is, CBS gets to take advantage of YouTube's serving platform, and YouTube probably serves at the lowest CPM (cost per thousand), based on their server build-out and access to Google's worldwide network of servers. CBS instantly inherits one of the world's powerful infrastructures," Cooper explained.

"But at the end of the day, if their end game was to put together the best user experience, one would think that would be within their CBS world," he added. "CBS.com is now just a piece of the puzzle."

Hulu No, YouTube Yes

NBC and Fox currently direct much of their streaming video through Hulu.com,, which CBS reportedly rejected because it found the ad revenue sharing conditions unfavorable. YouTube and CBS did not disclose their back-end deal.

Either way, Hulu was built from the ground up to host professionally created, copyrighted content. YouTube has been the king of user-generated content. Can the forms mix well together?

"Whether they acknowledge it or not, [copyrighted content] was on YouTube before," Cooper said.

"CBS is taking this 'we're going to play now' rather than just sit in the corner and build up lawsuit documents. They have a unique opportunity to jump in and reap the benefits of the fabulous YouTube user base and play with them. I'm impressed they are doing it," he added.


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