News Corporation and NBC Universal will launch the largest Internet video distribution network ever assembled with the most sought-after content from television and film, it was announced today by Jeff Zucker, President and Chief Executive Officer, NBC Universal and Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation. The video-rich site will debut this summer with thousands of hours of full-length programming, movies and clips, representing premium content from at least a dozen networks and two major film studios.
AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo! will be the new site’s initial distribution partners. Their users, who represent 96 percent of the monthly U.S. unique users on the Internet, will have unlimited access to the site’s vast library of content. This media alliance will offer consumers free long- and short-form video and create a compelling platform for advertisers, targeting the rapidly growing audience of online video consumers. Charter advertisers include Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel and General Motors.
At launch, full episodes and clips from current hit shows, including Heroes, 24, House, My Name Is Earl, Saturday Night Live, Friday Night Lights, The Riches, 30 Rock, The Simpsons, The Tonight Show, Prison Break, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader and Top Chef, plus hits from the studios’ vast television libraries, will be available free, on an ad-supported basis, within a rich consumer experience featuring personalized video playlists, mashups, online communities and video search. Plus, the extensive programming lineup will include fan favorite films like Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, Devil Wears Prada, The Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy with bonus materials and movie trailers. Post-launch, plans will be considered for acquiring additional content as well as producing and licensing original programming for the new site’s audience.
Its launch distribution partners will provide the biggest potential reach of any player on the Internet. Moreover, the new site will actively seek agreements with a variety of additional distribution partners.
“This partnership is completely aligned with our continued investment in video on MSN and will allow hundreds of millions of our consumers to tune into a vast library of high-quality, safe and legal online video,” said Kevin Johnson, President, Platform and Services Division, Microsoft. “Our alliance proves that you can deliver quality online video entertainment and protect intellectual property and copyright at the same time. We look forward to working together to explore additional opportunities to distribute this content across other Microsoft services and devices.”
YouTube isn’t mentioned by name in the press release, but you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Aside from the fact that it seems more about distribution than about network, the real question is how much YouTube will be hurt by the loss of commercial video in the face of its continued dominance in displaying the amateur variety. Of course, YouTube would be invited to join the network in less than a New York minute if they agreed to the media companies’ revenue sharing terms.
Update: Kevin Johnson’s formal statement is here. Best line:
Today’s announcement is a great win for MSN’s more than 460 million consumers and for online video more broadly.
Golly, such a deal!