Yahoo Launches Beta of New Online Media WebPlayer

  • Yahoo has introduced the beta version of its new “flexible and universal” online media player named WebPlayer.
  • The app (written in HTML and JavaScript) can play YouTube videos and other content, and is available for use on blogs and websites for posting an array of content.
  • The Web-based media player supports a variety of media formats, including MP3 and WMA.
  • ZDNet reports: “The idea here is that it should be much easier for bloggers, publishers, or whoever that wants to publish digital media on their websites on a regular basis as all they really need a line of code and a link rather than copying over a giant embed code from YouTube.”

Sundance Institute will Distribute Indies Online

  • In an effort to help emerging artists reach wider audiences, the Sundance Institute has partnered with online video outlets including Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and SundanceNow.
  • The deals are not exclusive to any one platform, so films can be made available simultaneously on competing sites.
  • Films will be packaged under the Sundance name as part of its recently launched Artist Services Initiative. Marketing guidance will also be provided to filmmakers through the new Web-based program.
  • New Video will serve as the aggregation partner for online distribution, taking a small cut of the revenues. However, the online services will not purchase the movies, enabling the filmmakers to retain their copyrights.
  • Sundance hopes that the online initiative will provide an audience for films that typically do not find conventional distribution. First to be distributed: “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology” by Tiffany Shlain and “On the Ice” from Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.

YouTube to Stream Music Fests, Looking More Like a TV Network

  • YouTube announced that it will live stream two music festivals — Lollapalooza in August and Austin City Limits in September — in a deal with sponsors Dell and AMD.
  • Two free streams will be offered for each concert — one for live performances, and the other for backstage content and interviews.
  • The popular video site is teaming up with producer C3 Presents for the festivals. YouTube says it has no interest in producing these events and prefers working with partners.
  • AMD says this is a way to efficiently reach the under 30 crowd. While they didn’t disclose the dollar amount for the sponsorship, AMD described the deal with YouTube as “significant.”
  • YouTube’s front page attracts a daily viewership of 50 million in the U.S.

Acer Announces Social Networking Hot Button for New Laptops

  • Acer has announced that the new Gateway NV and ID series laptops will provide one-touch access to social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
  • Social networking hot keys will activate integrated widgets that enable activities such as status updates, message posting, uploading media and more.
  • However, some laptop makers — including HP and Dell — suggest that hot buttons could potentially overwhelm users, and prove to be an unnecessary feature when software could easily do the job (in some cases, such keys are even being removed from business laptops).
  • Computer users spend on average one out of every six minutes of online time on social networks, according to comScore.

Google Continues to Push its Social Networking Efforts

  • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman and former CEO of Google, says his company is continuing to experience strong demand for invitations to the new social network, Google+.
  • As previously reported on ETCentric, the network allows people to share links and media with others they have divided into “circles” of relationships.
  • If demand continues, Google will be looking at applying the social “circles” relationships to its search functionality and YouTube.
  • On Hulu, which Google is rumored to be bidding for, Schmidt explained that if there were any sort of deal, Hulu’s current TV shows would complement, not replace, YouTube’s online-only content.

SMPTE Launches Informational YouTube Video Channel

  • The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) launched its official YouTube channel earlier this month.
  • The channel will feature videos on the importance of industry standards and various clips on scientific and research findings from upcoming conferences.
  • Initial content will include a series of 60- second clips on the findings that will be presented at the SMPTE’s Second Annual International Conference on Stereoscopic 3D for Media and Entertainment (scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City).
  • Expect clips regarding human factors related to viewing 3D materials, live holographic television and computational photography.

Average YouTube Viewer Watches 5 Hours of Videos per Month

  • According to comScore’s May 2011 online video rankings, the average U.S. Internet user watched almost 16 hours of video last month.
  • The report indicates the total U.S. audience engaged in more than 5.6 billion viewing sessions during May, while 83.3 percent viewed online video.
  • Not surprisingly, Google’s YouTube was was the leading video site (again) with 147.2 million unique viewers, and an average of five hours spent per viewer on the site.
  • VEVO followed YouTube with 60.4 million viewers, Yahoo had 55.5 million viewers, and Facebook took the fourth spot with 48.2 million viewers.
  • Hulu had the highest number of video ad impressions at more than 1.3 billion.
  • The average length of online video content was 5.2 minutes.

Next-Gen Animators Adopt Online Model

  • YouTube’s profit-sharing Partner Program enables animators to be their own bosses, reach out directly to potential audiences while enjoying a cut of the traffic.
  • So far, approximately 20,000 program participants have gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and tens of millions of monthly views.
  • For the more successful, this has translated into incomes in the high six figures.
  • In addition to becoming a viable platform for earning, the program serves as a launching pad for emerging talent (companies are perusing the YouTube content as a means of recruiting).
  • “It’s been a huge game-changer,” says Aaron Simpson, VP of animation and business development for Mondo Media. “Profit sharing had been done a bit before on some websites, but not on the huge scale that YouTube allows.”

Expanding Video Library Available for Legal Remixing through YouTube Editor

Google-owned YouTube announced last week that its YouTube Video Editor now features access to more than 10,000 Creative Commons-licensed videos, including clips from partners such as C-SPAN, Voice of America, Public.Resource.org and Al-Jazeera. “It’s as if all the Creative Commons videos were part of your personal library,” explained product manager Jason Toff.

According to the YouTube Blog announcement: “As part of the launch of Creative Commons licensing on YouTube, you’ll also be able to mark any or all of your videos with the Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0 license that lets others share and remix your work, so long as they give you credit.”

Creative Commons is “a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing and innovation.” It was co-founded by Harvard professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig. The Creative Commons licensing process will provide YouTube users with a simple mechanism for legally integrating existing video content into remixes, mashups, music videos and more. TIME reports that the CC-BY 3.0 license “allows for sharing, remixing/adapting and commercial use of the original, as long as the original author is credited.”

CC-BY also allows for commercial reuse, which will not only benefit YouTube and its producers, but in the long run should have an impact on Creative Commons as well. GigaOM reports: “The organization has gotten a lot of traction amongst photographers ever since Flickr added a Creative Commons licensing options as part of its uploading process. Recent Flickr data reveals the site is now hosting close to 190 million Creative Commons-licensed photos. Its licenses haven’t been nearly as popular in the video space, where it has only been adopted by smaller hosting sites and select individual publishers. YouTube’s sheer magnitude could help to make Creative Commons mainstream for video as well.”

Related Wired article: “Google Rolls Out YouTube Creative Commons Licenses” (6/2/11)

Related TIME article: “YouTube Adds Creative Commons to Clips, Allows Legal Remixing” (6/3/11)

Related YouTube Blog post: “YouTube and Creative Commons: raising the bar on user creativity” (6/2/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “YouTube’s Payouts to Channel Partners Come With Strings” (6/3/11)

YouTube Adds 3,000 Titles to Streaming Movie Rental Service

YouTube is going Hollywood with its new streaming VOD service that may provide some competition to services from the likes of iTunes, Hulu and Netflix. YouTube Movies now offers current mainstream features in addition to trailers, reviews, alternate endings, behind-the-scenes specials, cast interviews, and other extras. (You can browse current titles and check out the interface at the YouTube Movies page.)

This may prove to be a big move for Google (YouTube’s parent company), which no doubt hopes consumers will use Google TV (with updated Android 3.1 this summer) to stream rented movies. YouTube has been renting and offering movies for free with ads for more than a year, but the titles have been less than current.

According to the FAQ section of the company’s press release, YouTube has added approximately 3,000 new titles, “including catalog and new releases from Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, NBC Universal, Lionsgate Films and many great independent studios. This brings the total number of movie titles available to rent on YouTube to over 6,000.”

Viewers will have 30 days to begin watching a rental and, in most cases, will have up to 24 hours to complete viewing.

Engadget reports: “The pricing is $2.99/$3.99 for movies viewable via PC or Google TV (no other device support is mentioned) and the FAQ notes that YouTube supports resolutions up to 4K but ‘most’ of the new additions are sadly in SD, a choice which is apparently up to its partners.”

YouTube is betting that consumers are ready for a change in their viewing habits. Head of YouTube, Salar Kamangar writes on the company’s blog: “You’re finding more and more of the content you love on YouTube, which is now available on 350 million devices. We know this because you’re watching videos to the tune of 2 billion views a day. But you’re spending just 15 minutes a day on YouTube, and spending five hours a day watching TV. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that’s going to change.”

Related Engadget post (including YouTube press release and FAQ): “YouTube adds 3,000 movies for rental from Universal, Sony, Warner Bros.” (5/9/11)

Related article from TheWrap: “YouTube Finally Goes Hollywood With New Movies on Demand Service” (4/25/11)

Related article from TheWrap: “Mark Cuban: YouTube Can Change the World, But It Can’t Make Money Streaming” (4/14/11)

Google Launches Beta Version of YouTube Live

According to the YouTube Blog, the popular video site has officially launched its beta version of YouTube Live — the possible next step in turning YouTube into a competitive TV streaming site. YouTube has live streamed concerts, sporting events and interviews in the past, but YouTube Live has the potential to be something much more significant that could grab the attention of broadcasters, advertisers and social media experts.

The blog announcement explains: “With over 2 billion views a day, it’s easy to think about YouTube as a place to watch videos recorded in the past. But you’ve told us you want more — and that includes events taking place right now…”

Although the announcement does not include the special celebrity channels touted in the press of late or any mainstream content yet, it does describe some basic information such as a browse page of live and upcoming events, interaction with users’ customized pages for channel subscription alerts, and YouTube’s plans for a “gradual rollout” of the live streaming beta platform.

The potential success of YouTube partners streaming live from their own channels may largely depend on the amount and type of content, as well as the social interaction between users and fellow streamers. However, it is clear that with the YouTube Live platform in place, Google is setting the stage for bigger ticket items, such as “broadcasting” professional content and global news and events.

Related Digital Trends article: “YouTube Live debuts as its overhaul continues” (4/8/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “YouTube Recasts for New Viewers” (4/7/11)

YouTube: Studio System for New Era of Content?

CNN reports that the debate regarding whether Google is a media company or tech company — a publisher of content or indexer of content — may soon be over, as the company prepares to morph YouTube into an online “studio system” for a new era of content production. CNN suggests Google is already a media company, but the question should more accurately address what kind of media company; perhaps “one that operates by the economics of the Internet, with no legacy ties to the economics of television, movies, or publishing.”

In recent months, Google has been investing heavily in its YouTube division, including: the hiring of content execs from Netflix and Paramount, recent acquisitions to enhance its current quality of offerings, plans to reportedly spend $100 million on developing new celebrity “channels,” and more. Google hopes to expand YouTube’s dominance in the UGC market to include niche programming and mass entertainment.

Of course, what makes the online video resource unique in terms of serving as a content provider, is that it has very little overhead. As compared to other media companies that are more directly involved in actual production, YouTube’s marginal costs are nearly zero. Advertising revenue is earned the same way whether viewers are clicking on a cute video about someone’s cat — or a professional basketball game (Google is in talks with the NBA and NHL to show live games on YouTube).

YouTube also enjoys the potentially infinite number of specialty channels the Internet provides, an approach that is not practical for cable. It may not matter from day-to-day which channels do well and which do not. As long as YouTube makes the platform available, the content can regularly evolve.

Microsoft to Hit Google with Antitrust Complaint

In the ongoing battle between two tech giants, Microsoft claims that Google is stifling competition in Europe where Google controls approximately 95 percent of the online search market. Microsoft also alleges that Google is limiting data from YouTube and other services. The Los Angeles Times reports that Microsoft Corp. plans to file a formal antitrust complaint against Google Inc., as part of the European Commission’s investigation launched last November.

This is the first time Microsoft has filed such a complaint against a rival.

“Google has done much to advance its laudable mission to ‘organize the world’s information,’ but we’re concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative,” wrote Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith online. “We’ve therefore decided to join a large and growing number of companies registering their concerns about the European search market.”

According to Smith, Google is limiting data from YouTube required to properly display search results for Microsoft’s Bing and other search engines. And while iPhones and phones running Google’s Android software have no problems with YouTube, Smith claims Google has blocked phones running Windows software from interacting properly with YouTube.

“These allegations raise important competition concerns, especially in light of Google’s market share,” Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin said, “and we’ll examine them more closely as we prepare for our antitrust hearing.”

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