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ABC, ESPN Video Hitting YouTube

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Disney Media Networks has inked a deal with Google’s YouTube to launch multiple channels on the mega-popular video sharing site featuring ad-supported, short-form content from ABC, ESPN, ABC Family and SOAPnet.

The partnership comes after several days of rumors that Disney was nearing a deal with Hulu, the fast-growing video outlet for long-form professional content which is the product of a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. Such an arrangement would be a major coup for Hulu, giving it access to primetime shows from three of the top broadcast networks (ABC, NBC and Fox)--and in particular ABC’s top series, which accounted for nine of the top most streamed shows on the Web according to Nielsen’s recent VideoCensus report.

Instead, the deal is a victory for YouTube, which has signed numerous pacts with professional content players over the past few years but has lacked content from some of the biggest names in TV (CBS has been the major exception among the broadcast networks). “More and more studios and networks are realizing the power of YouTube to reach a huge and engaged audience,” said David Eun, vp of strategic partnerships at Google.

However, the deal does not enable users to view full episodes of hits like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, the sort of content which has thus far proven to be a major draw for both viewers and advertisers. To date, ABC—unlike other broadcasters--has rarely offered such content on outlets outside of its own site, typically insisting partners utilize its proprietary video player.

Starting sometime this April, YouTube will roll out the first at least five planned channels: ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Family and SOAPnet. According to preview channels now live on YouTube, the content on the ABC Entertainment channel will consist of “original video, sneak peeks, recaps, and moments from Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, and so much more.”  ABC is also planning an daily original series, dubbed Start Now.

ESPN’s channel—which will utilize both ESPN.com’s video player and YouTube--will house short clips of game highlights and commentary. Disney has yet to announce what sort of content will appear on the ABC Family or SOAPnet channels, which are scheduled to go live by May.

Initially,  isney Media Networks has the option to sell its own ads for these channels, including banner ads and overlay video placements. Both companies have termed this arrangement a test, implying that the ad sales structure could change down the road. “This deal provides us with the opportunity to reach a broader online audience, to experiment with different monetization models and to extend the reach of our advertisers within branded environments that they most desire,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group.