YouTube (GOOG), known for short clips of dogs on skateboards, cats on treadmills, is trying something new: Showing video that is much longer than its previous 10-minute limit. It’s something of a test right now, limited to YouTube’s “content partners”, but it has potentially big implications.
The company outlined the new policy in a memo emailed to content partners last week:
Long Form Content
You now will be able to upload and monetise videos in your account that are longer than 10 minutes. This feature is exclusively for partners. Independent Film makers that partner with us will now be able to upload their feature films on our site. Please note that for long form content, the maximum file size is 1GB.
How much is a one gig? A lot: Almost enough space for a full-length, standard definition movie. Most full-length films on iTunes, for example, are 1.1GB to 2GB. A standard-def copy of “Semi-Pro” runs an hour and 38 minutes and consumes 1.1GB.
YouTube’s 10-minute limit has served a couple of purposes to date: It keeps bandwidth costs down, and it makes it harder for copyright owners to complain about unauthorised streams: Technically, you could cut up “300” into 10-minute chunks and distribute it through the site (reader Big Al points out that you can do this right now with News Corp.’s (NWS) “Idiocracy“, if you have the patience). But who wants to watch that? And short clips also work for YouTube because, well, it’s the Web, and there’s a limited appetite for anything that lingers for more than a couple of minutes.
So what’s Google thinking about here? One obvious answer: Advertising. YouTube sells ads against videos uploaded by its content partners, but there are only so many ads you can sell against a short, under clip. Presumably YouTube wants to figure out if it can sell more of them against longer clips.
That will depend largely on the quality of the video it can aggregate, so YouTube is actively soliciting good stuff. Fortune reports YouTube execs have been recruiting indie filmmakers at at the Los Angeles Film Festival to upload their work. Spokesperson Julie Supan told the magazine that YouTube fundamentally sees itself as a forum for short-form. “But as we test full-length content, we are starting to see that the audience is potentially there.”
But is the money there? We’ll look at the costs involved in streaming a 1GB clip and how much advertising would be needed to make that pay in a future post. UPDATE: Short answer: We think this won’t cost YouTube much, and might even help them eke out a few more dollars.
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