Giving it away

Wednesday 25 November 2009, 14:15

Charles Miller Charles Miller edits the College of Journalism blog and produces documentaries for BBC History and Business. Twitter: @chblm

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While News International and other newspaper groups wrestle with the dilemma of whether to charge for content they have been giving away for free online, television and movie businesses are at an earlier phase - deciding whether to put their content online for free. 

YouTube's creation of a dedicated Shows page, where you can search for video or movie material under categories or names, raises the spectre of a future which marginalises other forms of video distribution - and the income they provide.

For the moment, the YouTube initiative may not look like much of a threat. There are complete movies available, but the choice is limited to the output of a few of the smaller studios and the selection includes plenty of old titles that can't have much market value any more (see Atom Age Vampire - a 1963 Italian horror film, below).

There are more than 800 contributions from the BBC, but they are short clips from shows like Top Gear and Fawlty Towers, rather than complete programmes. And that's just a fraction of the 5,000 clips already on the BBC's own YouTube channel.

Where the new Shows channel impresses more is in the selection of non-BBC television material: 57 complete episodes of Location, Location, Location, 37 hour-long documentaries from Journeyman Features, all ten episodes of a PBS documentary about an aircraft carrier, or all of David Starkey's Six Wives of Henry VIII

As more and more people access online sites on the TV screen in the living room, searching YouTube/Shows may increasingly seem like a good idea when there is 'nothing on'.

For YouTube, if this is part of a general trend. It's like the journey made by eBay from online flea market to a more professional business-oriented site - where the days of the eccentric collector seem to be numbered. Will we soon be remembering the amateur video oddities that made YouTube's name as just part of its history?  

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