YouTube, Google dials up premium content, ogles studios with new management team
Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, are in the midst of assembling an executive team focused on striking deals with movie studios and television networks to make more money from YouTube’s online video platform.
To secure deals with television networks, Google has hired Robert Kyncl, former vice president for content acquisition at Netflix Inc., and a former HBO executive. Kyncl has been credited with helping Netflix grow its highly popular on-demand streaming video service.
In addition, Dean Gilbert, vice president of product management for Google TV, has been named global head of content, according to people knowledgeable with the management changes. Gilbert replaces the position left vacant when David Eun left YouTube in February to join AOL. Both Gilbert and Kyncl will work at YouTube.
As one of the main architects of Google TV, Gilbert is expected to help coordinate Google's efforts with YouTube as well as negotiate with movie studios and emerging media companies to acquire movies and other professional content for YouTube.
The dual appointments signal a more concerted push by the Silicon Valley technology giant into the world of entertainment. Although Google dominates computer Web searches with a 70% market share, it sees video and display advertising as the next frontier for growth. Doing so, however, means building closer relationships with studios and networks that hold the keys to the type of premium content that attract bigger ad dollars and paying viewers. It also means integrating its technologies more directly into TV sets.
Announced in May, Google TV is described as a platform for letting Internet connected television sets tune into Web videos and music, among other things. The service is set to debut this fall as a feature in TV sets, Blu-ray disc players and set-top boxes, competing with TiVo Inc., Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. to become the dominant living room gateway to the Internet.
It’s unclear how Google TV will integrate with YouTube, which has been operating independently of its parent company 28 miles south in Mountain View, Calif. Presumably, Google TV will feature YouTube’s content prominently and steer viewers to YouTube’s video-on-demand service, where it can make money by either renting premium videos or collect advertising dollars on the volume of traffic.
Since launching its rental service in January with about 300 movies, YouTube has expanded its offerings to several thousand titles, including films from Lions Gate such as “3:10 to Yuma,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Killers.” Rental rates range from $1.99 to $3.99.
Starting at the Sundance Festival this year, YouTube has been courting studios and filmmakers, urging them to think of the Internet company as a new distribution channel with access to a massive flow of traffic.
YouTube already serves up 2 billion video views per day, double last year’s number. Google’s Chief Executive Eric Schmidt in July predicted that YouTube, which Google purchased in 2006 for $1.65 billion, soon will be profitable.
-- Alex Pham
Photo: Screen shot of Lions Gate's "3:10 to Yuma" for rent on YouTube.