Google Video Tests Ad-Supported Content

NEW YORK Google has begun featuring free ad-supported content on Google Video for the first time as part of what the company is calling a pilot test.

Since it launched in January, Google Video has operated as something of a combination of iTunes and YouTube, with advertising playing little role. The Web site sells individual episodes of shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigations and MacGyver for $.99 each, while also serving as a platform for posting a variety of user-generated content that can be viewed for free.

Google said it is testing a program that allows advertisers to bid on individual “premium” videos to run a 15- to 30-second ad at the end of these clips. Users can watch this select content gratis via a prominently displayed “Free Today” section on the site’s home page. In addition, participating advertisers are able to run a persistent icon and text link above the video screen as these clips are played—of the “this video was made possible by” variety.

As of June 23, a handful of big-name advertisers had signed on to participate in the test. Hewlett-Packard was sponsoring nearly hour-long interviews from The Charlie Rose Show, and Burger King was sponsoring seven-minute clips from the 1960s cartoon Felix the Cat. In addition, LowerMyBills.com was sponsoring a instructional video on installing a shower pan liner from AsktheBuilder.com.

While advertisers are stepping forward, it remains to be seen whether viewers will gravitate to Google’s free video content, which could hardly be described as A-List. In addition to the Rose interviews and cartoon pieces, Google is offering footage from the USA Rugby Super League, classic movie clips, Mister Magoo and other content.