Entertainment Industry

Category: YouTube

AOL launches network of lifestyle video channels

Pledging to "change the way the Internet looks and feels," AOL Chairman and Chief Executive Tim Armstrong used the high-profile platform of the Digital NewFront presentation to advertisers to launch an online network for showcasing digital video.

The new network, dubbed AOL On, is designed as a one-stop online destination where viewers can find 14 channels programmed -- as cable television channels are -- around interests such as food, business, entertainment, health and technology. The short-form video could be viewed on four dominant screens -- computers, tablets, mobile phones and Internet-connected TVs. 

"Consumer adoption of the Internet is going to continue to explode," Armstrong told a group of more than 450 marketers, ad agency representatives and media buyers at a presentation Tuesday. "Every single human being on the planet is going to be walking around with a screen on them -- and we believe that content is the most important thing that's going to touch those screens."

AOL Senior Vice President Ran Harnevo portrayed AOL On as the next wave in video entertainment, following the broadcast television era and the emergence of cable TV -- which introduced channels programmed around various passions, including music, food, sports and entertainment. Internet video democratized the creation and distribution of content, he said, but in this era of "broadcast yourself (a reference to the dominant Internet video site, YouTube) ... we got flooded with dogs on skateboards."

"It's frustrating both for consumers and for advertisers," Harnevo said. "We as an industry have a problem -- and we've been thinking a lot about this problem for the last 18 months."

Harnevo said AOL On seeks to borrow the best of TV -- namely, its programming -- and apply it to the fragmented Internet video experience. AOL plans to select from among some 300,000 short-form videos to bring the most relevant to the new channels.  It also has enlisted celebrities, including supermodel Heidi Klum, "Project Runway" judge Nina Garcia and former Bravo TV "Top Chef" semifinalist Sam Talbot to help curate content selections.

"I spent my life curating as a fashion editor. I've traveled the world looking for fashion and really selecting what is most relevant for our readers," said Garcia, who is fashion director at Marie Claire magazine. "In this digital era, there is a lot of information.... Having a point of view, an expert's point of view, is so important."

AOL's approach is reminiscent of YouTube's premium content strategy, in which the Google Inc.-owned site devoted some $100 million to underwrite the cost of creating new channels that address entertainment niches.

Armstrong said that before he decided to pursue this content strategy, the former Google executive sought the advice of Walt Disney Co.'s former chairman and chief executive, Michael Eisner. 

Eisner, who subsequently founded Vuguru, an independent studio to create content for digital and emerging platforms, also took the stage Tuesday to talk about a theme he returns to frequently: the importance of story-driven content. 

"I keep coming back to this one point of view," Eisner said. "I read two scripts that [Vuguru CEO] Larry Tanz and [Vuguru Chief Creative Officer] Kristin Jones sent me. It was like reading any two scripts at a movie company or TV company. These were really high-quality, very high-concept movies."

One new Vuguru digital series that premieres June 18 on AOL, "Fetching," was created by "Sex and the City" producer Amy Harris and stars Collette Wolfe of the 2010 feature film comedy "Hot Tub Time Machine" and the ABC television series "Cougar Town." The comedy revolves around the exploits of a lawyer who quits her job, breaks off her engagement and pursues her dream of opening her own business -- a doggie day-care store called "Fetching."

Another Vuguru series, "Little Women Big Cars," debuts May 7. Set in Southern California, it centers around four devoted soccer moms who struggle to balance their schedules and family lives while striving to retain their sanity. Its ensemble cast includes Amy Yasbeck ("Wings"), Julie Warner ("Crash" and "Nip/Tuck"), Kristy Swanson ("Psych") and Romy Rosemont ("Glee").

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MGM movies coming to YouTube, Google Play

Robocop
Seeking to make more money from a library that still provides virtually all of the independent studio's revenue, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has signed a deal to rent more than 600 of its movies through Google's YouTube video site and its digital media store.

The partnership unveiled Monday covers more than 600 of MGM's best known titles, including "Rocky," "Terminator," "West Side Story," "Rain Man," "Robocop" and "Moonstruck." They will be available directly on YouTube or via Google Play, the tech giant's digital media store that offers movies, music, books and games to rent on the web and Android mobile devices.

Google already has similar movie rental deals with all of Hollywood's major studios, save 20th Century Fox, and 10 independents, including Relativity Media and Miramax. Typically, it charges $3.99 for new releases and $1.99 for older titles.

Though it is the leading player in online video-watching through YouTube, Google has a tiny share of the fast-growing but still nascent Internet video-on-demand business, which is dominated by Netflix and Apple's iTunes. The company is trying to grow its content collection, however, in order to better compete and make more revenue from online video.

MGM, meanwhile, wants to make its movies available as broadly as possible as it starts moving back into production under a new ownership and management team. Many of the titles it is offering through Google are already available to stream, rent or buy via Netflix and iTunes.

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Photo: Peter Weller in "Robocop 2." Credit: Orion Pictures

Viacom's $1-billion infringement suit against YouTube revived

Viacom's $1-billion infringement suit against YouTube revived
A federal appeals court judge has revived a $1-billion copyright infringement lawsuit by Viacom Inc. against Google Inc.'s YouTube.

Viacom had sued YouTube in 2007, claiming that the online video site allowed users to post segments of its popular TV shows, including Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" without authorization.

The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday sent the matter back to federal district court and instructed the judge to determine whether YouTube knew about the infringing content but turned a blind eye.

Judge Jose A. Cabranes wrote that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provides online sites protection against copyright infringement. The district court ruled in June 2010 that those protections extended to YouTube because they lacked sufficient notice of the individual infringements -- some 79,000 individual clips uploaded from 2005 to 2008.

Cabranes vacated the district court's summary judgment finding "because a reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness ... at least with respect to a handful of specific clips." 

Viacom issued a statement Thursday applauding the decision, noting,  “The court delivered a definitive, common sense message -- intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.”

YouTube lauded the court's interpretation of the protections awarded under the copyright law and sought to minimize the impact of the ruling.

"All that is left of the Viacom lawsuit that began as a wholesale attack on YouTube is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed from YouTube," the company said in a statement. "Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating. YouTube will continue to be a vibrant forum for free expression around the world."

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Photo: Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter joins Stephen Colbert and "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart on "The Colbert Report." Credit: Kristopher Long / Comedy Central
 

 

 

YouTube strikes movie rental deal with Paramount

Hugo

Google Inc.'s YouTube has struck a movie-rental deal with a fifth major Hollywood studio, Paramount Pictures, adding 500 new titles to its expanding online library.

The addition of Paramount's films brings YouTube's rental library to nearly 9,000 titles, featuring such popular mainstream movies as Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning "Hugo" and director Michael Bay's action-packed "Transformers" and classics including "The Godfather."

The deal reflects YouTube's strategy to provide its millions of online viewers with a range of entertainment options, from its trademark user-created video and polished Web originals to professional, long-form content.

Securing more sought-after Hollywood entertainment also supports Google's other high-profile initiatives, such as its Android mobile platform. The same movies available on YouTube also can be rented and watched on Android smartphones and tablets through Google Play.

"Paramount Pictures is one of the biggest movie studios on the planet," Malik Ducard, YouTube's director of content partnerships, said in an e-mailed statement. "We're thrilled to bring nearly 500 of their movies in the U.S. and Canada on YouTube and Google Play."

YouTube already reached on-demand agreements with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios.

What's most interesting about YouTube's movie rental agreement with Paramount is that it occurred at all. 

Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom Inc., sought last fall to revive its $1-billion lawsuit against YouTube over the alleged unauthorized posting of clips from popular TV shows to the site from 2005 to 2008. Arguments were heard last October in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, although no verdict has been rendered.

A U.S. District Court ruled in June 2010 that YouTube was protected from such infringement claims because of the "safe harbor" provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Paramount Pictures arrangement, which one person familiar with the situation confirmed, is not without precedent: MTV , Nickelodeon and Comedy Central all have channels on YouTube.

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Photo of Asa Butterfield, left, plays Hugo Cabret, and Sacha Baron Cohen portrays the Station Inspector in a scene from Martin Scorsese's movie "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures

New animated series to debut on online channel Shut Up! Cartoons

Pubertina Shut Up Cartoons Smosh YouTube

One is about a Japanese monster that shrinks down to human size and is forced to seek a variety of mundane jobs. Another describes the life of a 13-year-old going through puberty, from the perspective of a recent Cal Arts graduate.

"Krogzilla gets a job" and "Pubertina" are among 18 original series that will be featured on a new online animation channel on YouTube debuting April 30 called Shut Up! Cartoons. It's the brainchild of comedic duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, creators of the popular YouTube channel Smosh.

Shut Up! Cartoons, targeted at teens and young adults, will feature a diverse lineup of shows, and is the latest example of how the Internet is emerging as an increasingly important breeding ground for animation.

Top online video distributors such as Yahoo and YouTube are creating or distributing premium online animation as part of an effort to keep viewers on their sites and to generate more advertising dollars. Google Inc.'s YouTube, its dominant online video site, is helping fund and develop 100-plus free high-quality channels with the support of top Hollywood animation veterans and new talent.

"It's a really exciting opportunity for us,'' said Barry Blumberg, the Shut Up! Cartoons executive producer and former longtime chief of Disney Television Animation. "What everybody struggles with in the media world is that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. We talked to creatives and said, 'What would it be like to essentially make your own thing?'"

Read more in today's business section.

 



 

 

 

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Photo: Scenes from "Pubertina," one of several animated series to be featured on a new animation channel on YouTube called Shut Up! Cartoons. Credit: Shut Up! Cartoons

'CSI' creator launches new movie project on Yahoo

CSI Crime Scene Investigation

The creator of the television hit "CSI" series hopes to do for cyber-crime investigations what he did for police forensics, turning a little-known science into fodder for mainstream entertainment.

Anthony E. Zuiker's latest project is "Cybergeddon," a motion picture that will appear not in movie theaters but as a series of weekly episodes available online this fall through Yahoo.

"Cyber crime is the 2.0 version of crime," said Zuiker, who spent a year researching computer threats, even flying to Washington, D.C., to meet with investigators at the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Department and National Security Agency.

"They scared the daylights out of me," Zuiker said. "I was officially scared even to log in, which all makes for great drama, as long as it's fictionalized."

Zuiker developed a story that revolves around Chloe Jocelyn, a white hat hacker in the FBI’s cyber-crime division, and newly transferred agent Frank Parker, who together uncover a massive digital conspiracy. They join forces with incarcerated master hacker Chase “Rabbit” Rosen to crack a worldwide ring of cyber-terrorists who have been responsible for a range of malicious behavior -- from mobile stalking of U.S. senators to tricking consumers into revealing confidential information on the Web, through a technique called "clickjacking."

Norton, the antivirus software for computers, mobile phones and tablets from Mountain View, Calif., software company Symantec Corp., provided Zuiker with technical advice about aspects of cyber crime and ultimately became a sponsor.

"It was a real natural partnership, where Anthony had this vision to do what he did for 'CSI' in bringing the forensics to the forefront. How does it really happen?" said Rhonda Shantz, Norton's vice president for global brands. "He wanted to do that for cyber crime."

Shantz said "Cybergeddon" provides a compelling way for Norton to alert consumers to little-known threats, such as the malicious apps that can spread viruses through tablets, smartphones and Facebook accounts.

"Our whole purpose is to educate in a way that people find comfortable," Shantz said. "'Wow, is that possible on a mobile phone?' 'Wow, I had no idea that could happen on tablet.' The whole surge of what's happening in the mobile world -- that's where we find we have to do the most education."

"Cybergeddon" is Zuiker's second digital venture. He also plans to produce 12 original short films for the YouTube channel BlackBox TV. Zuiker said he sees digital distribution as a way to reach vast global audiences of viewers who are watching entertainment in new ways.

"When you go wide, as with movies like 'Avatar,' this is thousands of screens," Zuiker said. Yahoo "is 50 million screens a day. "

Yahoo's deal with Zuiker marks the second such big Hollywood partnership it has struck in recent months. Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions is developing an animated series for Yahoo targeting men ages 18 to 34. These content agreements fit with the site's efforts to be thought of as a leading source for high-quality content online.

"Projects like 'Cybergeddon' are part of our tentpole strategy where we're really bringing major event programming to the network,"  said Yahoo's head of video, Erin McPherson. "What's fascinating about 'Cybergeddon' is it's theatrical in its scope. Everything from production values to the cast to the way we're going to market and promote it is going to be like a big theatrical event."

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Photo: The characters Nick Stokes and Sara Sidle (George Eads, Jorja Fox) from an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS 

 

YouTube starts action sport channels with Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater

Shaun White wows crowd The X Games

Dominant online video site YouTube has launched a new lineup of sports channels featuring some of the biggest names in action sports — including pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, snowboarder Shaun White and surfer Kelly Slater.

The four channels seek to tap into the rising popularity of action sports — especially among teens and twentysomethings — by offering clips, commentary and live events on YouTube. The original content represents another step in the site's efforts to augment its user-created videos with more professionally programmed offerings.  

YouTube's sports outlets will include the Red Bull Channel, which will feature a new 13-episode series chronicling the daily lives of some of the world's best-known action sports athletes, including urban mountain biker Danny MacAskill, skateboarding pro Ryan Sheckler and big wave surfer Jamie O'Brien. 

Another channel, Network A, will offer highlights and interviews with well-known athletes such as skateboarding pros Sheckler and Paul Rodriguez, White and Slater. 

Alli Sports will feature tips from favorite athletes discussing how they pull off their signature moves. It will also seek to identify rising stars and offer news and highlights.

Hawk will lend his backing to Ride, a 24-hour channel devoted to the skateboarding lifestyle. One show, "Tony Hawk's Dissent," will offer subscribers behind-the-scenes access to celebrities. "One in a Million" will give amateurs the chance to compete for sponsorship.

"Bringing these new channels from some of the world's leading producers will be a welcome addition to our already broad base of action sports fans on YouTube," said Claude Ruibal, global head of sports for YouTube.

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X Games legend Shaun White wows the crowd during warm-ups for Skateboard Vert Elimination during the X Games last July. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.

YouTube's Robert Kyncl charts Internet video's meteoric rise

Robert Kyncl YouTube's head of global content
YouTube executive Robert Kyncl took the consumer electronics industry on a trip through a time machine -- just five years ago -- when subscription service Netflix didn't stream movies online, Internet television service Hulu didn't exist and YouTube was still in its infancy.

The times, and the way viewers consume entertainment, are a changin', as Kyncl underscored in his Thursday keynote address at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that charted the rapid rise of the Internet as a distribution platform. 

Netflix, which got its start in 1998 mailing DVDs to subscribers in its trademark red envelopes, streamed 2 billion videos in the fourth quarter of 2011. Hulu now boasts 30 million monthly users. And YouTube attracts about 800 million viewers a month.

"The speed with which we're running is incredible," said Kyncl, YouTube's global head of content partnerships. He predicted that Internet video would soon account for 90% of the traffic on the Internet.

Kyncl said YouTube is a platform where someone like Michelle Phan could follow her own passion -- and not her mother's desire that she become a doctor -- to create instructional makeup and beauty videos. Her YouTube channel now attracts twice as many regular viewers as a program on cable's Style network, he said. And that audience led to a sponsorship from a mainstream advertiser, Lancome. 

"It's a wonderful, magical story that wouldn't have been possible five years ago," Kyncl said. "But it's possible today."

Kyncl portrayed Internet video as the next major step in the evolution of media, once dominated by three broadcast networks that together commanded 100% of television viewership in the U.S. The emergence of cable and satellite distributors made possible the fragmentation of the audience around niche programming.

By 2020, Kyncl predicted, about 75% of channels will be transmitted by the Internet. The global reach of sites like YouTube will allow for even more specialized channels to draw together sizable audiences of passionate enthusiasts, he said.

Machinima, a YouTube channel for video game fans, now attracts more than 1 billion views every month from about 116 million people around the world, said Chief Executive Allen DeBevoise, who participated in a panel discussion after Kyncl's presentation.  

YouTube's initiative to bring established TV producers and stars to its platform has attracted such entertainment notables as  "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker, actor Rainn Wilson, best known for portraying Dwight Schrute in NBC's "The Office," and Felicia Day, creator of the Internet series "The Guild."

"I'm here because of what I've learned from the user-generated content ... on YouTube that has inspired me," Zuiker said.

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Photo: Robert Kyncl, YouTube's head of global content, in the company's Santa Monica offices. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

YouTube acquires RightsFlow

RightsFlowGoogle Inc.'s YouTube online video division has acquired RightsFlow, a New York company that handles certain U.S. licensing rights for more than 30 million songs. 

Terms of the deal, announced Friday, were not disclosed. 

Established in 2007, RightsFlow manages royalty payments for songwriters, as well as music labels and publishers. YouTube has been attempting to play nice with music and video copyright holders who have been complaining about the amount of unlicensed, pirated content uploaded by users of the site. Viacom Inc., for example, is pursuing an appeal of its copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube and its parent, Google.

Since the Viacom lawsuit, filed in March 2007, YouTube has buttoned up as many licenses as it could with music copyright holders to cover songs heard on the site, either as background music to a video or in a cover performance.

But the area of music copyrights is vastly complex, with multiple rights holders often involved in a single song. That's where RightsFlow comes in, said David King, product manager for San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube.

"By combining RightsFlow's expertise and technology with YouTube's platform, we hope to more rapidly and efficiently license music on YouTube," King said in a blog post.

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Independent music publishers urged to opt into YouTube licensing deal

YouTube Logo

The National Music Publishers Assn. on Thursday released the terms of the settlement of its years-long legal dispute with YouTube, and is urging songwriters and publishers to sign a licensing agreement that is part of the lawsuit's resolution.

The deal would allow thousands of independent music copyright holders to begin collecting a percentage of the advertising revenue generated by YouTube videos that use their music. NMPA and Google Inc., which owns YouTube, announced the settlement in August. Until now, the two parties did not disclose the terms.

"This is enormous progress for independent publishers and their songwriters, who previously have not been afforded the opportunity to capitalize on these kinds of revenue streams,” said David Israelite, president of the NMPA, which represents thousands of music publishers in the U.S.

The settlement covers only publishing rights, which involve the copyrights to the song's musical and lyrical compositions. Rights for the sound recordings are administered separately. YouTube already has licensing agreements in place with major record labels to cover the recording rights.

The current agreement does not include Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing, Sony ATV Music Publishing or Warner/Chappell Music, the industry's four largest music publishers, who have signed separate licensing contracts with YouTube. These four publishers control roughly 60% of the global publishing market.

The remaining 40% is divided among thousands of copyright holders and a handful of mid-sized independent publishing companies such as Imagem, whose catalog includes the works of show tunes legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, and Carlin America, which owns the rights to thousands of songs such as "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

Imagem and Carlin have already opted into the YouTube settlement.

"This is a fair settlement because we'll be getting essentially the same licensing terms that the major publishers have with YouTube," said Caroline Bienstock, chief executive of Carlin.

Notably absent from the settlement is BMG Chrysalis, the largest of the independent publishers, with a catalog of more than 700,000 songs, including works by David Bowie, Johnny Cash and the Ramones.

Should BMG, which is jointly owned by German media giant Bertelsmann and investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., decide against the settlement, the company could still pursue its lawsuit against YouTube.

BMG's case is part of a larger lawsuit filed in 2007 by Viacom Inc. The suit alleged that YouTube infringed copyrights by hosting pirated videos uploaded by users of the popular online video site. A district court judge last year disagreed with Viacom, saying that YouTube only had an obligation to take down infringing content when it is asked to do so by copyright holders. The case is currently in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The NMPA, however, is urging its members to opt into the settlement.

“The licensing opportunity recognizes and compensates the contributions of songwriters and publishers, and establishes an ongoing mechanism for sharing revenues generated when their work is used online," Israelite said.

Those who opt in would receive a portion of the advertising revenue generated by videos that contain their songs. If the music is played in the background to accompany the video, songwriters would get 15% of the net advertising money, minus a processing fee. If the song is performed by someone in the video, songwriters would receive 50% of the net revenue.

Publishers have until Jan. 16 to opt into the agreement, after which YouTube will begin tabulating royalties, which are paid out to songwriters through the Harry Fox Agency, an organization that collects royalties on behalf of artists.

The outcome of the agreement covers only videos and has no bearing on Google's music store, launched on Wednesday.

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