Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube’s Hulu Jr. Act: Chuck Norris, Yul Brynner Movies Coming to Google’s Video Site

YouTube became the world’s biggest video site (and one of the world’s biggest Web sites, period) by giving people unlimited access to anything they wanted to see–as long as it was a few minutes long. But that hasn’t made much money for Google (GOOG) because advertisers are wary of sticking their brands next to any video Web watchers want to see.

New tack, which YouTube has slowly been adopting: Run longer stuff that will theoretically appeal to advertisers. Like, say, indie movies. Or shows from CBS (CBS). And now, a handful of movies from the MGM library, starring the likes of Chuck Norris (“Bulletproof Monk”) and Yul Brynner (“The Magnificent Seven”).

So far, YouTube’s catalog of studio-sanctioned movies and TV shows pales in comparison to those offered at Hulu. But that’s going to change sooner than later: At some point in the not-so-distant future, all of the Web video sites will have the same access to the same catalogs. Video industry executives predict that even NBC and Fox, the JV partners in Hulu, will end up distributing their stuff widely once the video site’s exclusive ends next year.

Trickier question: Just because these sites have long-form video, will there be enough eyeballs, and advertising dollars, to make a real business out of showing them?

Hulu, for instance, is supposed to be the gold standard for Hollywood-approved Web sites. But as Rafat Ali at PaidContent points out, it’s unclear exactly how much money Hulu is actually making.

The site’s boosters never fail to point out that 100 percent of its inventory is advertiser-friendly (as opposed to a small fraction at YouTube). But that doesn’t mean that 100 percent of views have been sold to advertisers, despite frequent reference to inventory being “sold out”: Watch Hulu for any length of time and you’ll quickly start seeing freebie public service ads–the kind you don’t see on TV until the middle of the night.

Something doesn’t add up right now. When will it?


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