Yahoo!, Google Thrust Video Search Into Spotlight

Expanded video search capabilities from Yahoo and a new Google TV search beta have boosted online access to indexed television content.

Google Video lets users explore content from broadcast and cable programs offered by PBS, the NBA, FOX News, and C-SPAN. Yahoo, meanwhile, partnered with TV search player TVEyes to help it better index video content. That deal includes programs from the BBC, the U.K.’s BSkyB, and Bloomberg.

Additionally, the portal has given its beta video search product more visibility with links on both its home page and search home page. Previously, Yahoo users could only access video search via Yahoo’s research site, Yahoo Next.

Media buyers and online publishers alike have been watching the video search space. It promises to increase the exposure of burgeoning video content and, therefore, create more video advertising inventory.

“I think there’s an immediate impact, which is that [the Yahoo changes] bring attention to video online. Bringing the video search tab to the Yahoo search page and home page brings attention to it,” said Jeff Lanctot, VP of media for Avenue A/Razorfish. “If that’s the case, it brings video to the masses in a way that MSN started to do with MSN Video and conceivably Yahoo takes things a step further.”

The companies’ moves are aimed at making video search more accessible and accurate. Both Google and Yahoo obtain keyword information from the closed-captioning information included in programs.

Google’s beta offering includes neither advertising nor the ability to play video. Rather, users can view stills from shows listed in search results and obtain information about when and on what channel a program will air. A “change location” feature lets users discover the next time a show will air locally.

“What Google did for the Web, Google Video aims to do for television,” said Google cofounder Larry Page. “This preview release demonstrates how searching television can work today.” Page said Google is in talks with content providers to enable playback in its video results.

Other, smaller players are trying to make an impact in video search. America Online’s Singingfish is a pioneer of multimedia search, and startup blinkx includes video in its desktop search application.

“The main thing that excites me about video search is it makes video online much more comfortable for the user. Right now it’s the only media type that’s still fairly poorly organized,” said Lanctot. “When people begin to know they can get that on-demand experience with video, I think we’re going to see video use online skyrocket.”

Yahoo partner TVEyes monitors TV and radio content to make it searchable by keyword, phrase, or topic. The portal’s video index includes content from its own network, including video from Yahoo News, LAUNCH, and Movies, along with exclusive partner content from Mark Burnett Productions and JibJab. The company also has video search partnerships with AtomFilms, RealNetworks, and IFILM.

It’s trying to round out its content by inviting smaller video publishers to upload their content via an RSS (define) enclosure format. In addition, Yahoo crawls the Web for video files, but it says multimedia files can be difficult to find because they’re often hidden behind JavaScript or tied to site-specific players.

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