Google to Distribute MTV Video Clips

Moving to further assert its role as a distributor of video on the Web, Google said Monday it had reached an agreement to deliver video clips and shows from Viacom’s MTV Networks to users, along with video advertising.

Google and MTV Networks described the partnership as a test of “an innovative video distribution model that will serve consumers, Web publishers and advertisers.” A second agreement will make Google the distributor for on-demand, download-to-own versions of some Viacom shows, with users paying US$1.99 to use Google to download the videos they can then view at any time.

Cartoons and Reality

The deal — financial terms of which were not announced — calls for Google to distribute ad-supported video content from MTV Networks to targeted Web sites. Content includes clips from Nickelodeon shows such as “SpongeBob SquarePants” and MTV reality shows such as “Laguna Beach.” Testing is scheduled to begin before the end of the month.

The companies say Web publishers who are already members of the AdSense network will be able to use the content to enhance their Web sites and give users a reason to stay longer. It marks the first time those AdSense members have had video offered to them directly via Google.

“With the combination of our video technology, and extensive advertiser and publisher network, Google is in a leading position to help content owners, Web publishers and advertisers generate interest and increase revenue opportunities,” said Google CEO Erich Schmidt.

Google has long been positioning itself to become a key distribution point for the fast-growing online video marketplace, with its search engine background, its video search technology and its relationships with Web publishers and advertisers giving it an advantage in the space.

Money Clip

The deal marks the first time MTV Networks video will be made available to third-party Web sites. Currently, users can only see MTV and Viacom clips on the company’s own sites.

“Collaborating with Google gives us a terrific opportunity to take our content and distribute it even more widely on the Web in a seamless and targeted way,” said Viacom CEO Tom Freston. “This deal fits in perfectly with our strategy to deliver the best content to our audiences — wherever they are.”

The fact that the deal involves Viacom suggests it could be expanded to include more of the media giant’s content, which stretches from Comedy Central and Country Music Television to movie studios Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks. Late last year, Viacom split CBS Television into a separate, publicly traded company.

For now, though, the programming Google will distribute is limited to clips from the MTV Video Music Awards, short clips from the Laguna Beach reality show and SpongeBob outtakes.

The download-to-own portion of the deal includes access to other programs, and is the start of the realization of Google’s larger goal to become a distribution channel for full-length video. Shows users can pay to download episodes of “Chappelle’s Show” from Comedy Central and episodes of the MTV cartoon “Beavis & Butthead,” as well as a number of MTV reality shows and some Nickelodeon cartoons.

Google Tube

The move appeared to be aimed at slowing down YouTube before it rolled up too much market share, according to search engine analyst John Battelle. The alliance was likely in the works for some time and is almost certain to get larger, he added, with both companies likely eager to get it into the marketplace before YouTube extended its lead too much.

“Clearly Google and MTV lag market leader YouTube, and this alliance is probably just the start,” Battelle told the E-Commerce Times.

Meanwhile, the alliance could be a big boost for Google and other portals and search engines by underscoring the value of such third-party intermediaries.

While Viacom has long made its video available on its large family of Web sites, the Google deal suggests it sees value in a broader distribution, both in terms of the ad revenue — which Google and Viacom are likely to share among themselves and Web publishers — and in terms of driving viewers to its core cable networks. Coming as it does just a few weeks after YouTube was sued over copyright infringement for videos shared through its site, the deal may also emphasize Google as an alternative for video content owners eager to protect their own intellectual property.

“The value that Google and Yahoo bring to the table is that they can simply reach more people than even the most heavily marketed Web site,” said Gartner analyst Alan Weiner. “They can reach all the way across the Web, to big publishers and small sites and put video and messages in front of users like no one else has the ability to do.”

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