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Hollywood Flocking to YouTube: MGM Grand Signs Distribution Agreement

Google’s YouTube continues to dominate the world of online video, and Hollywood film studios are beginning to sit up and take notice. Despite competition from upstarts like Hulu.com, YouTube’s enormous popularity (the site recorded over 81 million visits in the month of September) is making it a very attractive partner for the studios.

Case in point: Monday morning MGM Grand finalized an agreement with Google to distribute full-length feature films and television shows on YouTube. MGM will begin the partnership by offering episodes of “American Gladiators” and a selection of feature films from the company’s archives.

Like all other YouTube content, the MGM Grand offerings will be free, but paid advertisements will accompany the videos. Over the past year YouTube has been increasing the number of videos with advertisements. Most of the ads appear as small rectangles on the bottom of the screen and can be “clicked away” by the user. However, the MGM films and television programs will have embedded advertising directly on the video.

In fact, the subject of advertising has been a tricky one for Google when it comes to YouTube. The site’s roots as an independent, democratic-style video portal gained it a huge following early on. When YouTube was purchased by Google in 2006, the company tread very softly at first, and was careful not to make any changes to its advertising policy that might offend YouTube’s loyal viewers.

According to the New York Times, Google is now openly courting TV networks and film studios to contribute original programming to YouTube. The MGM deal represents a major step forward in this process, and it is likely that other major film studios will jump on board in the near future. The sheer number of viewers on YouTube in any given month makes the site irresistible to production houses looking to “re-purpose” their older titles, or even test market new ones.

And although the most common YouTube videos are still user generated content, more and more, professional filmmakers and producers are contributing original material to the site. One noticeable change over the last year has been the increase in long-form videos, as opposed to the usual 5 to 10 minute user-generated clips. The MGM films and television shows, for example, will all be shown full-length, and will be available in YouTube’s new “theater view.”

The influx of Hollywood studios and TV networks to YouTube represents a major shift in the way people watch television and films. With more major studios likely to follow in MGM’s footsteps, YouTube is now poised to become the premier film and television network online.

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