YouTube's On-Again, Off-Again Relationship With Premium

By  |  Monday, August 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

Let’s play a game. Go to YouTube’s home page and try to find the premium content — the movies and television shows from big studios — without resorting to search. Come back here once you’ve given up.

A year ago, getting to that content was a lot easier. YouTube’s home page had a “Shows” tab that took you directly to a page filled with professionally-produced episodes and clips. The top of the page, as¬†captured in July 2009 by the Wayback Machine, promoted clips from Jimmy Kimmel Live, manga from Funimation and full episodes of the Larry Sanders Show. Down below were clips from ABC’s World News With Charlie Gibson, and cooking tutorials from the New York Times.

YouTube’s “Shows” page still exists, but the emphasis on big stars and major media companies is gone. More importantly, you can’t get to this page directly from YouTube’s homepage. The latest redesign, launched at the end of March, removed a lot of clutter, but also returned prominence to the user-generated content for which the site is best-known.

With all that in mind, I wonder what YouTube will look like if it begins selling pay-per-view movies from major Hollywood studios. Financial Times says Google negotiating with studios to stream feature films at the same time as their release on DVD (same as iTunes and Amazon), and hopes to have deals in place by the end of the year.

It’s easy to see why Google would want YouTube to stream major motion pictures. A cut of each sale would provide revenue, and the timing would fit nicely with the launch of Google TV. But the shifting on YouTube’s home page between user-generated and premium content only points out how difficult it is to juggle both in one place. I just can’t imagine a big block of feature films being hawked alongside make-up tutorials and “Drive-By Pooping.”

 
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