YouTube Expands Beyond 10 Minutes – Adds Full Length Content

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Undoubtedly feeling the pressure from Hulu and other sites that have begun successfully streaming full length, professionally produced content for free over the web, YouTube over the weekend announced that it had begun testing full length content streams. YouTube kicked off their test with classic TV content from CBS, including full length episodes of MacGuyver, Star Trek, The Young an the Restless, and Beverly Hills 90210 (the original, not the new remake).

The new full-length content feature will allow YouTube to legally host professionally created, long-form content, and to monetize it with pre-, post-, and mid-roll advertising in the way that Hulu has been successful.

YouTube currently dominates online video, accounting for about 44% of all US video streams. But without access to professional, full length content, the site could see that dominance start to slip. Via the success of Hulu, users have demonstrated that not only are they interested in pro content, they’re also more open to monetization via in-stream video advertising when the content is television or feature film length.

Audiences are also now turning more often to the web to view professionally created television content. The recent comedic send-up of US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin by actress Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live, for example, was viewed 66% of the time after the live TV broadcast on DVRs and the web.

“This is the first time we’ve seen delayed viewing numbers this big,” said Amanda Welsh, head of research for TV data firm Integrated Media Measurement Inc. “Usually it’s the other way around, with the overwhelming majority of viewing occurring during the actual broadcast.”

As Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land correctly points out, it was on the back of illegally uploaded commercial content that YouTube first rose to its current position of online video dominance. YouTube will be placed at a competitive disadvantage going forward if it isn’t able to provide access to the commercial, full length content that users desire.

On the experience side, YouTube’s full length content effort feels the way they’re labeling it — like a test. It’s not that the YouTube player is bad at delivering long-form content, it’s just not as good as what we’ve come to expect from Hulu, which set the bar pretty high. Ads feel more clumsily integrated, there’s too much going on on the page for a truly cohesive viewing experience (though the new “lights off” feature, helps), and the quality doesn’t seem up to par — though to be fair, that is harder to judge when the only full-length content they have available is from a decade or more ago.

The biggest omission, though, is that embedding is turned off, at least for the launch content. Embedding has allowed a ton of Hulu content to spread virally across the web. YouTube appears to be leaving the option of whether content can be embedded up to the publisher. Hopefully YouTube can convince publishers to allow their content to be embedded, or else their service will have a hard time competing with Hulu and other full-length content providers.

You can check out an episode of MacGuyver here.

Though not mentioned in the official YouTube blog announcement, commenters there seem to indicate that this test is for US users only.

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  • http://www.talking-poker.com BrianOConnell

    “This content is not available in your country”. Or to translate it – “Film and TV publishers hate piracy but they still can’t get their collective fingers out of their collective asses so you can’t watch this. Go download it illegally.”

  • http://www.mockriot.com/ Josh Catone

    @BrianOConnell: Yeah, though it wasn’t mentioned in the official YouTube announcement, it looks like this is a US only test. I’ll update the post with that info.

  • jvvlimme2

    I find this the main problem with the Music/Movie industry.

    After years of demonizing the internet, they finally discovered it’s a valid source of income. I don’t mind paying for a song or a movie, but when I get the message “this xxx is not available in your region” it really annoys me. Excuse me for not living in the US. The web is global so get with the program please.

  • Jdawg2k

    Agreed with jvvlimme2. I live in Canada and it is most frustrating. Although it may take a while for big sites like YouTube and Hulu to finally make deals and let the rest of the world see the content, I’m starting to see Canadian broadcasters feature full length videos.

    I think we’re getting close.

  • http://www.hotpluto.com Hotpluto1

    In my opinion with Google and YouTube’s search to monetize their video advertising, the long format and movie content seems like the best place to stick their ads. I say this because people are used to watching TV and dealing with ads. However, with ad-skipping technology, it seems like viewers still have more control over this with regular TV than re-purposed shows on the WEB. Will YouTubers get frustrated and go to other sites to avoid commercials or video ads?

    Brett Hill- CEO
    http://www.hotpluto.com