Disney’s TV Unit Will Make Short Videos Available on YouTube
Walt Disney’s television division became the latest media company to make a distribution deal with YouTube on Monday, saying that it would share short-form content with the world’s largest video Web site.
Disney refused to comment on reports that it has held talks with both YouTube and another video site, Hulu, about distributing full-length episodes of shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” Disney is in negotiations with Hulu to take an equity stake in the site, which is a joint venture of NBC Universal and the News Corporation, according to a person close to the talks who requested anonymity while discussing internal deliberations. A Hulu spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
For now, ABC seems to want to use YouTube to promote its programs, but not replace ABC.com as a destination for online TV viewing. The deal is similar to one signed last fall with CBS. With its revenue growth slowing, Google has been trying to add professional content to YouTube in an effort to lure advertisers. Professional videos are more appealing to advertisers than videos uploaded by users.
Matt Murphy, a senior vice president at Disney and ESPN Media Networks, said the YouTube pages for ABC prime time, ABC News and the company’s cable channels would promote the brands and “drive viewership.” The ABC page will include a module that directs users to ABC.com to watch full episodes.
Disney will sell and control the advertising on the video clips, and split the revenue with YouTube. The ad formats will include 15-second commercials before the video starts, overlays and ads next to the video player. YouTube will be embedding ESPN’s video player, the first time the video site has used a third-party player. Jordan Hoffner, YouTube’s head of content partnerships, said the embedding decision “shows our flexibility with partners.”
The YouTube deal and the conversations with Hulu suggest an evolution of Disney’s online video strategy, which has primarily focused on drawing visitors to its own Web sites. Mike Vorhaus, the president of Magid Advisors and an expert in online video, said ABC would be wise to distribute its video more widely. Drawing a parallel to Hollywood, he said, ”you don’t just put a movie out in one city.”
YouTube draws about 100 million visitors each month, making it an enormous stage for media companies. But many television outlets have been reluctant to share videos with the site. Along with CBS, notable exceptions include ABC’s late-night program “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which has harnessed YouTube to great effect, drawing 11 million views for its videos in the last month. “Consider this your oasis in a desert of skateboarding dogs and popcorn-eating hamsters,” a message on Mr. Kimmel’s YouTube channel says.
With deals like the one with ABC, YouTube is working hard to revise that user-generated reputation. “They need the money,” Mr. Vorhaus said of YouTube, and adding professional video is “how they’re going to get it.”
The digital marketing Web site Clickz reported on Monday that YouTube was preparing to redesign its site to make it more suitable for media company content. YouTube declined to comment on the report.