In a move intended to strike back at the encroaching Hulu, YouTube on Thursday announced a series of partnerships that will enable it to stream a range of full-length movies and television shows.
The pics and episodes, which will be streamed on a separate section on YouTube as free ad-supported content, encompass a host of library titles from studios including Sony and Lionsgate and television networks as well as a number of indie pics.
The deal comes in the wake of a previous YouTube pact with MGM for television shows and full-length films and follows a pact with Disney for shortform excerpts of content from ABC and ESPN.
Sony’s James Bond tentpole Casino Royale and CBS’ new mystery series Harper’s Island, as well as pics including Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me and Richard Linklater’s Slacker, are part of the deals.
The move reflects YouTube’s increasing aggressiveness in attracting more advertising revenue through premium content while balancing it with enough copyright protection to make the studios comfortable.
Google’s YouTube was among the first big players in the booming online-video space but in the past year has seen its revenue undermined by competition from Hulu, which has specialized in paid full-length content from Fox and NBC Universal–as opposed to the user-generated fare and user-submitted clips that have been YouTube’s specialty.
“In the past it’s been about uploading video,” Google/YouTube senior product manager Shiva Rajamaran said. “We haven’t invested in episodes and series.”
The move will take the site’s episode count from hundreds to thousands, YouTube execs said, and the number of features from dozens to hundreds.
Still, a number of major studios–including Paramount, Disney and Warner Bros.–were not part of the announcement Thursday.
Reps from Google acknowledged the move–most of the content is at least a decade old–was a “baby step” but said it hopes to continue growing its full-length professional content.
In the case of Sony, YouTube users who click on a film will be redirected to sites controlled by the studios, which will be able to serve their ads to, and collect traffic from, their own video player. Other studios will have their content live on YouTube site.
Andrew Wallenstein contributed to this report.