YouTube Goes Commercial
Based on the YouTube blog, they are experimenting with a new model - partnerships with major studios. Since Google acquired YouTube just over two years ago for $1.65 billion (with a b), they've been looking for new ways to cash in on that investment. The problem has been that advertising has been notoriously hard to solicit considering the quality of most of the videos (namely, poor).
As an apparent move to compete with other services like Hulu, YouTube has partnered with CBS to bring full length videos from such popular shows as Beverly Hills 90210, MacGyver, Star Trek: The Original Series, and The Young and The Restless. Of course, these are all older shows with CBS currently airing their new offerings on Hulu. Google claims to be in negotiations with other studios to bring more full length content.
Changes from normal YouTube offerings includes Theater mode, light control, and lack of embedding functionality. Theater mode darkens the screen, centers the picture, and widens the screen (though it doesn't stretch the picture, and adds a curtain graphic on both sides. The size of the picture does not change. Turning the lights off will keep the picture where it is but darken the rest of the screen. Most videos can be embedded on other websites. The full length episodes cannot. This doesn't make much sense since the advertising is embedded in the video. YouTube has added other advertising recently with "Buy it now" links that send users to Amazon or iTunes.
The commercials are part of the video and take place at three separate times. Locations may be pre, post, or during the video. Ads vary in length with the longest around 30 seconds long (long in comparison to other embedded ads). The ads seemed to pop up randomly (there wasn't always one at the beginning of the video). There are hash marks on the play bar which seemed to indicate where the ads would be located. In fact, reloading the page sometimes got rid of the hash marks which might trick persistent users into thinking they can skip the whole ad experience by hitting F5 enough times. In fact, sooner or later the hash marks appear. When the play bar marker was slid forward to a hash mark, however, the ad didn't always play (this may be a way around the ads). I was able to watch an entire episode of Star Trek with only one commercial at the beginning by sliding the bar forward during the final fadeout.
What hasn't really changed with these new videos was quality. The videos can be opened to full screen (like all YouTube videos) and the quality was no better than other videos. Of course, none of these legacy shows have all that great video quality but it is definitely better than what YouTube offers. Other websites have already made great strides in streaming higher quality video.