Time was, YouTube was a humble meeting ground for amateur camcorder users with a yen for 10 minutes (or less) of fame. At least that was my understanding of the company’s business model, as explained to me by a YouTube emissary to the EW offices a while back. But seems that’s changing. According to this story, YouTube, which is owned by Google, will soon begin showing “professional programming” — full-length television shows and films from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s archives — to boost their advertising revenue. This is in addition to a similar partnership YouTube recently struck with with CBS to stream full-length archived shows such as Star Trek and Beverly Hills, 90210, and — this just announced! — a deal with Fremantle, producer of the “Idols” reality-TV shows, to stream programs exclusively on YouTube. Apparently, clips of dramatic prairie dogs and hysterical David Archuleta fans, while highly entertaining, are not attracting enough eyeballs to pay for what, according to always-reliable Wikipedia, is one helluva ‘spensive platform — back in March ’08, a million bucks a day.
To my mind, this is an obvious attempt to compete with Hulu, which has the advantage of a much nicer user experience, not to mention access to everything that NBC, FOX, CBS, Comedy Central et al has to offer (Hulu being owned by NBC and all). So, what about the (sorry ‘Tube fans) jank YouTube viewing experience? Is YouTube going to force users to watch ads now before every video? And, with such options as Netflix, Pay-Per-View, DVRing, and downloading movies and TV shows, etc., would you be willing to watch, say, Legally Blonde or Bulletproof Monk (pictured) on a screen the size of a (small) slice of pumpernickel bread?