YouTube, Google Secure Video Distribution Deals with Major Studios

While the Web is abuzz with talk about a rumored YouTube deal with Google, three confirmed alliances with the video sharing site were announced today. The agreements with CBS, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group (UMG) pair content distribution with ad revenue sharing, and cement YouTube’s focus on connecting the worlds of consumer-generated and professionally-produced video.

Separately, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group signed with Google to distribute music videos via Google Video, and in the future, via Google AdSense affiliate sites. The videos will be ad-supported, and the studios will share in the advertising dollars.

All three of the YouTube deals give content producers access to the video sharing site’s content filtering system, enabling CBS, Sony and UMG to remove videos using their copyrighted material if deemed unacceptable.

The copyright protection technology “was certainly important,” in CBS’s decision to deliver its content through YouTube, said CBS Corporation SVP Communication Dana McClintock.

Video including short clips from CBS shows “Survivor,” “CSI,” “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” as well as Showtime shows like “The L Word” and college sports footage from CSTV Networks, will be highlighted on YouTube’s homepage and in a CBS brand channel on the site.

McClintock stressed the deal is “a financial one,” as opposed to YouTube’s deal with NBC, which he described as “promotional.” YouTube agreed in June to host exclusive clips and promos for NBC’s fall shows including “The Office,” SNL and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Indeed, the financial aspects of the arrangement allow CBS to sell display ads to run alongside its video, and split the ad dollars with YouTube. The video sharing site will also provide CBS with a cut of the ad revenue it generates through CBS-approved user-generated video featuring the TV network’s content.

CBS is no stranger to online video distribution. The firm provides its programming on its free, ad-supported innertube site, as well as through Google, Apple’s iTunes, Amazon, Yahoo and other sites, according to McClintock.

ComScore Media Metrix pegs YouTube as third in its August list of video sites based on unique visitors. Yahoo Video came in first, with over 21 million uniques, followed by MySpace Videos and YouTube, each with around 19 million.

According to Hitwise, YouTube’s share of the online video market was over 45 percent in September. Its closest contender in the space was MySpace Videos, garnering less than half YouTube’s market share — around 22 percent. Google Video was a distant third at 11 percent.

On the music front, Sony BMG will deliver music videos via YouTube, and share revenue from ads served with those videos, as well as ads served with consumer-generated clips featuring Sony audio and video. The company will also make use of YouTube’s content filtering system to approve or remove video using its content. Sony BMG labels include Arista Records, Epic Records and RCA Records.

Taking a cue from NBC, which went from scorning to embracing YouTube, UMG has signed a deal to distribute its music videos on the site. The Vivendi unit reportedly hinted at legal action against YouTube and MySpace recently, apparently over copyright issues.

The arrangement is similar to one formed between YouTube and Warner Music Group last month. In addition to viewing and sharing videos by artists from UMG labels like Geffen Records, Island Def Jam Music Group and Polydor Records, users will be able to integrate songs from UMG’s artists with their own videos. As part of the YouTube deal, UMG will employ the video site’s filtering system to track down and remove unauthorized UMG content.

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