Formalizes Alliance With Viral Site to Grow Network's Online Audience

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- E! has partnered with YouTube to promote a contest in which the creator of the funniest, snarkiest, video-lampoon of pop culture earns $2,500.
An E!-branded area has been added to YouTube’s home page, and YouTube will direct members to E!’s Cybersmack broadband channel. In return, E! will make Cybersmack clips and other E! programming available for YouTube users.
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The contest is an offshoot from a popular segment on E!’s “The Soup” called Cybersmack that highlights humorous Web content. In doing so, E! becomes one of the first TV networks to formalize an alliance with one of the Web's increasingly popular viral video sites.

Going into broadband
Suzanne Kolb, exec VP-marketing and communications at E!, explained that the contest is part of an effort to extend the Cybersmack franchise into a dedicated broadband channel within E!’s network of broadband channels, The Vine.

“We wanted to construct an opportunity for people to be able to see clips from Cybersmack, but also to basically send us their home-grown video, their commentary on pop-culture in a funny way in a ‘Soup’ like way,” she said.

The partnership provides E! access to YouTube’s vast audience of hip young viewers and provides YouTube with fresh content. Julie Supan, senior director of marketing at YouTube, said the site’s users seem interested in both amateur and professionally produced content. For example, a trailer for “Scary Movie 4,” seeded by Dimension Films, garnered more than 1 million views.

Traffic and reach
Ms. Kolb said YouTube was the perfect partner for E!: “Not only does YouTube have great traffic and reach the right kind of people for us to promote something like this, but they're also in the business of being able to upload video,” Ms Kolb said. “It is great to have a partner who can receive that for us as well."

“Our goal is to provide more entertaining content to our users in general. By partnering with companies like E!, we hope to increase the amount of professionally produced content on the site,” Ms. Supan said. “Our long-term business plan is to stay focused on the community, stay focused on the best product for the users.”

An E!-branded area has been added to YouTube’s home page, and YouTube will direct members to E!’s Cybersmack broadband channel. In return, E! will make Cybersmack clips and other E! programming available for YouTube users.

Ad-supported business model
E!’s broadband network is advertiser-supported, but YouTube, despite its astronomical traffic (more than 30 million downloads a day) does not yet serve ads. Ms. Supan said YouTube is exploring a variety of options to monetize its audience, but ultimately it will operate on an advertising-supported model. “The way we generate revenue is with advertising,” she said.

While YouTube plans to have sponsors for portions of the site, in addition to relevant targeted advertising, the company is still working out how advertising opportunities can work. “YouTube is evolving as a company,” Ms. Supan said. “What began as a personal video-sharing network has become the leading video entertainment service on the Web.”

She said YouTube can be a great tool for marketers to reach a new demographic. “We are talking with TV networks and others at this time about how to promote TV programs or upcoming movies or sell more albums.”

Ads as content
YouTube offers a twist on the traditional advertising-supported model, because the ads themselves can be the content that people seek out. For example, the Nike-seeded clip of soccer star Ronaldinho putting on gold Legend cleats was viewed more than 3 million times. But, Ms. Supan cautioned, not every video seeded by marketers will attract attention.

“No matter whether content is user-generated or professionally produced, it has to be compelling or the users won’t watch it,” Ms. Supan said.

Starting today, participants can enter the contest by uploading their video using YouTube. The short-form movies will be hosted on both YouTube and E!’s Cybersmack channel. E! users will vote on judge-selected finalists to determine the grand-prize winner, whose entry will be featured during an episode of “The Soup.”

Protecting copyrights
Although YouTube is no Napster, many feel that the site occasionally crosses the murky line between fair-use and copyright infringement. In an effort to reduce illegal uploading to the site of copyright-protected material such as entire TV shows, YouTube has changed the guidelines constraining clip size. In the past, clips hosted on YouTube had to be less than 100 MB; now, regardless of file size, a clip must be less than 10 minutes long.

YouTube explained on its blog that the decision was made in order to “balance the rights of copyright owners with the rights of our users.” This change will not affect most users, as the vast majority of clips hosted by YouTube are less than three minutes long. A Premium Content Program is also available for users who wish to showcase longer content. The program is free but requires the user to go through an extra step to verify that they are the copyright holder.

E! will steer clear of copyright infringement issues by reviewing all contest submissions for legal and other considerations before the uploaded videos go live on YouTube or E!’s site.

"When you're trying to comment on pop culture in any way, you always have to be mindful that you're not going to be doing anything that infringes on the rights of others,” Ms. Kolb said. “We want to make sure that the content that is being submitted goes through our normal legal evaluation before it is put out to the world."

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