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YouTube's Extra 5 Minutes Could Buy More Than Time

YouTube's Extra 5 Minutes Could Buy More Than Time

By hiking its video-length limit to 15 minutes, YouTube ups the ante in the already-heated video player war, says Josh Martin, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics. One can only wonder if or when YouTube will increase the limit to the just under 20 minutes required to stream a commercial-free playback of a 30-minute television episode.

By Kimberly Hill E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
07/30/10 10:53 AM PT

YouTube uploaders who wish to follow 60s pop-art icon Andy Warhol's advice and grasp their 15 minutes of fame now can do so fully. YouTube has raised the maximum length limit on submissions from 10 to 15 minutes, announced Product Manager Joshua Siegel on the company blog. While an additional five minutes may seem trivial to some, it represents an increase of 50 percent in video length, which is significant.

The change was made possible by improvements to the video service's Content ID system, according to Siegel. This service, free to the holders of copyrights of video material, allows rights owners to track their original content and determine if users are uploading it to YouTube without their permission.

Now that these additional protections are in place for the 1,000-plus movie studios, music studios and other commercial enterprises that have signed up for Content ID, YouTube feels it can increase the limit, explained Siegel.

Web Video Scrum

Although YouTube presents it primary motivation as copyright protection, one can imagine many other reasons the service would want to increase its video-limit length right now with the improved Content ID system in place. For one, the change comes just over a month after a federal court dismissed Viacom's copyright infringement suit against YouTube, ruling that the company was not responsible for the behavior of its users, as long as it took down copyrighted material when notified.

Perhaps more important, though, is the increasingly competitive scrum over Web-based streaming media. This year has seen the introduction of several major -- and countless less-publicized -- consumer devices aimed specifically at a media-hungry public. The marketers of the iPad, a series of Android-based smartphones, the iPhone 4, and, most recently, the Droid X, have specifically touted their gadgets' ability to deliver video content to the small screens their owners hold right in their hands.

In fact, AT&T, sole provider of mobile service for the iPhone and iPad, recently introduced capped data plans, a move that appears to specifically target video and audio streaming.

As subscribers' appetites for high-bandwidth content increases, providers must find ways to limit costs, Carl Howe, director with the Yankee Group, told the E-Commerce Times. The dilemma for content providers like YouTube will be balancing the costs their users already are paying in the form of mobile data plans and device price tags against what they can provide for free.

Hulu on the Horizon

The biggest motivator of all, though, may be Hulu's recent move to offer a subscription service, Hulu Plus. For US$9.99 per month, customers can view a wide range of television episodes. Hulu concurrently announced that Hulu Plus content will be available via video player protocols on a variety of mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

This development ups the ante in the already-heated video player war. It's a situation that will see protocols such as h.264 and HTML5 gain ground even while stalwart Adobe Flash continues to be a major player, Josh Martin, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics, told the E-Commerce Times.

Thus, Hulu, owned in partnership by television studios, has introduced a for-fee service to additionally monetize streaming video over and above the ad-supported content it offers for free. This is the model of much network-sponsored content as well.

Now, YouTube enters the game with its Content ID tool, which, according to the company's sign-up screen, gives copyright owners additional control over the videos uploaded either by them or others, including the ability to "make money from them."

One can only wonder if or when YouTube will increase the limit to the just under 20 minutes required to stream a commercial-free playback of a 30-minute television episode.


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