YouTube and Disney Interactive announced a new content-sharing and distribution deal on Monday, aiming to bring co-branded, family-friendly web clips to new audiences across the two powerhouse web video sites.
The deal brings “new, original short-form programming produced by Disney to be made available across YouTube and Disney.com,” according to a YouTube spokesman. Disney will continue to share existing video content to the YouTube channel, and will also include select content from other YouTube creators not otherwise affiliated with Disney, effectively bolstering the company’s relatively modest YouTube presence.
In penning the deal, Disney Interactive hopes to capitalize on YouTube’s massive user base of over 800 million monthly viewers by bringing some of those eyeballs to the company’s own web site, Disney.com. The company’s game division — nee Disney Interactive — is bleeding money, with hundreds of millions in posted operating losses incurred over the past four quarters.
“It’s imperative to go where our audience is,” said James A. Pitaro, co-president of Disney Interactive, in an interview with The New York Times. Disney did not immediately respond to an interview request.
While it’s a larger step in furthering Disney’s digital content relationships, Disney and Google already have a past. The two companies first partnered up in 2009, offering only short-form web clips to YouTube viewers. Monday’s announcement is a significant expansion to the previous deal; YouTube will now host full-length episodes of web-exclusive content made by Disney, beginning with an original video series based on the Disney smartphone app, “Where’s My Water?”
Of course, partnering with YouTube is only one part to Disney’s overall online strategy. The company is hedging its digital bets across multiple web properties; Hulu.com — the massively popular online television site in which Disney has a significant equity stake — hosts television content from the ABC network, which Disney also owns. Last week, Disney renewed an existing two-year deal with Netflix to allow older ABC and Disney programs to run on the streaming movie services site. And on the same day as the Netflix partnership was announced, Disney inked practically the exact same deal with Amazon, allowing subscribers to rent ABC shows on the company’s Amazon Prime streaming service.
“The deal reflects that there’s going to be some aggregators out there, and that’s where the traffic is going to go,” said NPD Research VP Russ Crupnick in an interview. “So many companies are trying to build it themselves, but even a company like Disney struggles to get attention. Why build it yourself when somebody else has this kind of platform?”
In a time where YouTube is arming itself with more and more original content, Google also stands to gain significantly from the Disney partnership. Last week, Google announced its plans to bring over 100 channels to the YouTube platform, categorized by theme (comedy, sports, and the like) and populated with original content from partner contributors. The Wall Street Journalwrote earlier that some Google executives were floating the idea of offering premium pay-TV channels through YouTube, though the rumors are largely unconfirmed.
And as Brooks Barnes notes in his Times article, it’s an opportunity for YouTube to capture more family-friendly content and draw in a wider range of viewer ages. Currently, YouTube’s user-generated, freely hosted video selection leaves much to be desired in terms of family-friendliness; clips and their attached comment sections are often laden with profanity.
The new Disney-produced content is slated to be released “early next year and will start in the US and then roll out internationally in the months that follow,” according to a YouTube spokesman.