Google's YouTube has begun testing a dramatic departure in content and advertising, adding 15 50-minute TV episodes from Star Trek, Beverly Hills 90210, and MacGyver and with prominent new ads.
"We are starting to test full-length programming on YouTube, beginning with some fan favorites requested by you," Google said on its YouTube blog on Friday.
It's an experiment in video display and advertising, too, with ads for Research in Motion's BlackBerry and Intel's Centrino chip technology showing prominently on the videos I watched. The TV shows are preceded by a 15-second pre-roll ad, and YouTube will show mid-roll and post-roll ads as well, according to the blog posting. "As we test this new format, we also want to ensure that our partners have more options when it comes to advertising on their full-length TV shows," Google said.
The shows also feature new display possibilities that set off the ads--no doubt the "in-chrome ads" that Chief Executive Eric Schmidt referred to earlier this year when discussing the high priority of making more money from YouTube. A new "theater view" sports bright ads against an otherwise darker screen, wrapping the video in deep red faux curtains. And the "lights-out" mode retains the traditional YouTube interface, but with the darker screen and relatively bright ad.
The TV shows are all from CBS, which owns CNET News.
The content is tagged with a new film strip icon to indicate that it's different from conventional YouTube videos. The icon shows in search results, too.
Update 3:23 p.m. PDT: YouTube's long-form move has been expected for months, and now Google will begin to see how well viewers take to the idea.
Milking more money from YouTube has been a top priority for Google this year, and the new content and ads clearly are a part of that. They also show the increasing sophistication of Google's relationships with studios, which with the exception of litigant Viacom, have been warming to YouTube in some cases.
Schmidt has said the right way to pair advertising with YouTube's vast and fast-growing video collection is the "holy grail."