Bebo Launches Open Media Platform For Social Viewing; 22 TV Partners

Bebo may have signed up to Google’s (NSDQ: GOOG) OpenSocial widget platform, but it’s trying to carve out the media platform space for itself. Today it’s launching Open Media, a system letting content owners publish videos from their shows using their own players and advertising, from which they keep all ad revenue. Launch content comes from CBS, (NYSE: CBS) MTV Networks, ESPN, BBC, Channel 4, ITN, Yahoo, (NSDQ: YHOO) BSkyB, (NYSE: BSY) Music Nation, Next New Networks, Crackle, Ustream, and JibJab. The platform lets users become “fans” of series in the same way they add individuals as friends; shows also get blogs, reviews, forums and polls on a custom-branded, “channel profile” page. Users can send videos to friends.

It’s a significant upscale of the strategic direction of the UK and Ireland’s top social net (on comScore figs) in to a media destination. And it may be a smart move – though Bebo has traditionally been stronger with the 13-to-24 age group, Facebook is quickly scooping up even some of the younger user base for vanilla social networking functionality. Bebo has already embarked on original content production through LonelyGirl15 spin-off KateModern, Sofia’s Diary and now The Gap Year – now it wants to aggregate everyone else’s TV shows to drive up the site’s stickiness, and in a new way designed specifically for the social web.

The site launched Bebo Widgets catering for MySpace gadget makers like Slide and Photobucket in December and, whilst joining OpenSocial last week, announced plans for its own developers’ platform compatible with Facebook apps. The race is on to be the most ubiquitous platform in town.

Here’s the press release (breaking its 3pm GMT embargo) but there’s more to come – I’m on my way to the 12pm GMT official launch right now…