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Is YouTube Ready to Start Writing Big Hollywood Checks?

While YouTube (s GOOG) is the biggest name around when it comes to online video, the site has struggled over the past several years to bring premium content into the fold. But that could change, as the online video powerhouse might start writing big checks to license Hollywood fare.

The NY Post reported yesterday that Google is in talks to bring some popular Miramax titles to YouTube after Disney (s DIS) sells the studio and — more importantly — its film library to Filmyard Holdings, a deal that is expected to close by Dec. 10. YouTube would then have access to film titles such as Pulp Fiction, No Country for Old Men and Kill Bill, instantly boosting the amount of long-form film content that it has on the site.

YouTube already has the eyeballs; as the number one video site in the U.S., it attracted 146 million unique viewers in October, according to comScore (s SCOR). Those viewers watched, on average, about 271 minutes of video on the site that month. Most of that viewing is spent on short-form and user-generated content on the site.

Adding long-form video content to YouTube’s library is something the site has been working on since being acquired by Google in late 2006. YouTube even added sections for Movies and Shows early last year to highlight premium content to which it had secured the rights. Despite the company’s best efforts, most of what it has attracted so far has included either short-form clips of new shows, back episodes of older TV programming, or obscure film content.

The latest news about a possible deal for Miramax titles indicates that YouTube might be changing its strategy for content acquisition, however. The company recently brought on former Netflix (s NFLX) content acquisition exec Robert Kyncl, who joined Google earlier this year as VP of content partnerships. At Netflix, Kyncl helped shift the former DVD subscription company to a streaming video business by securing rights to thousands of video titles. To do so, Netflix had to write some big checks to studios to gain access to that content.

Now that it appears YouTube is getting serious about its own premium content strategy, it too might have to write some big checks to secure content. In doing so, it will be competing with Netflix and others for those rights.

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4 Responses to “Is YouTube Ready to Start Writing Big Hollywood Checks?”

  1. I’m concerned about how I came to this story in the first place. It was tweeted that this may be an opportunity for independent filmmakers such as myself to acquire another revenue stream, however, this article doesn’t cover any of that….

  2. Can care less about the Youtube brand. Youtube is a hit and run site. However, the Miramax acquisition is unsettling. NCFOM under the same shingle with that Fred kid will spur branding issues. And Ryan, in a way Youtube is already writing a check for content. The Miramax deal. But mommy and daddy are covering that. This stuff reminds me of the stock imagery/footage industry 6-7 years ago when it was making its transition to digital, and the big 3 were eating up everything in their path.

    But I’m not sure what your point is Ryan by focusing on Youtube’s premium content strategies, especially when the bigger picture paints a bigger story. Have you contacted any of these sources or looked into more possible ramifications with the acquisition? Or are you just blogging about another journalist’s news story? You sell ads here like this is news. My first question would have been aimed at why the studios are outsourcing digital distribution. Do you remember the Go network? That was Disney’s attempt at digital distribution. So doesn’t this Miramax sale paint a different picture for the studios (like Disney) when everyone is cutting cords? Oh, wait… Disney owns 30% of Hulu. Comcast/NBC another 30%.

    Hey Ryan, I’m surprised you didn’t write about your hopes for Youtube, like Youtube remaking NOFOM with Youtube’s own talking fruit.