YouTube will host short videos from Disney, ABC and ESPN

YouTube owner Google will let companies sell their own inventory and experiment with new advertising formats

Google's YouTube will soon show short videos from a major U.S. television group while testing new advertising arrangements in hopes of generating revenue online.

The U.S. sports network ESPN will launch a YouTube channel this month, with Disney/ABC Television Group launching several channels in May, including ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Family and a soap opera channel, according to the companies. Content will include short clips of ABC shows such as "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."

ABC, which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, owns 80 percent of ESPN, with the Hearst Corporation owning 20 percent.

The channels will only be available to Web surfers in the U.S. and will feature short-form content and not full programs. As part of the deal, Disney/ABC and ESPN will be able to test so-called pre-roll advertisements, which are shown before the featured content.

Disney/ABC and ESPN will be allowed to sell their own advertising inventory within their own channels. YouTube allows a few of its other partners to do this, such as CBS.

The channels will also use YouTube's InVideo overlays, which are animated ads that appear over a portion of the content. If clicked, the overlay will launch a video while pausing the featured content. If it isn't clicked, the overlay will disappear. Google has been experimenting with different ways to presents ads in a manner that doesn't annoy users but also allows it and its partners to generate ad revenue.

YouTube is hoping that its online analytical tools will give media publishers new insight into how people are interacting with the videos.

The agreement comes as Google is still embroiled in a lawsuit with Viacom, which sued Google in March 2007 for US$1 billion. Viacom alleges more than 160,000 clips of content it controls were posted on the video-sharing site, violating its copyrights.

Since then Google has implemented a video and audio identification system that automatically scans content posted to YouTube. It lets copyright holders then decide if they want the content removed or leave it up and try to monetise it with advertisements.

The content ID system is part of Google's plan to ally with the entertainment industry to put premium-quality content on YouTube while also respecting copyright concerns.

YouTube remains the dominate player in online video. In December 2008, U.S. Web surfers viewed 14.3 billion online videos, with YouTube taking a 41 percent market share, according to comScore's Video Metrix service. More than 100 million viewers watched YouTube that month, according to comScore.

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