Is YouTube Ready to Start Writing Big Hollywood Checks?

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While YouTube 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 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. 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 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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