YouTube Gets CBS Shows, Pre-Rolls

Updated. In the first big network content coup it’s gotten in a long time, YouTube got access to some full-length episodes of old CBS shows today. The shows — five episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 (the original), five episodes of MacGyver, five episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, and 14 episodes of The Young and the Restless — will be accompanied by much more advertising than YouTube has ever shown on a per-video basis, including controversial (for YouTube) pre-roll ads.

While this is a concession for YouTube on multiple fronts, it’s an opportunity for the site to show it can bring its huge audience to these full episodes to start building a good reputation among networks.

CBS is the TV network most open to making syndication deals for its content. However, regular members of its Audience Network get a far better deal than YouTube, with full episodes of current shows being syndicated to TidalTV, blinkx, Joost, Veoh and others. Actually, anyone who uses a social network can add to their profile page current full episodes of CBS shows through a distribution deal with iWidgets. Update: The initial iWidgets release I linked to was actually incorrect, I’m told; iWidgets only has clips, not full episodes.

And I’m not even sure that any of the content YouTube got today is exclusive. You can find more than 100 full episodes of MacGyver on Veoh, for example.

As for the advertising, when I looked just now, a 46-minute episode of Beverly Hills 90210 on YouTube has a 15-second pre-roll ad for CBS’ Amazing Race Elimination Station that is played again in-stream (yes, the same exact ad) five more times over the course of the video. It’s totally different than what we regular YouTube viewers are accustomed to — usually if any in-stream advertising is shown, it’s a single overlay ad per video, and viewers must click on the overlay before any ad actually interrupts their stream.

YouTube has long said pre-roll ads were too intrusive for its audience, but over the last year it started to indicate that it might be open to new formats.

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