Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hollywood casts eager eye on YouTube

7/5/2006 12:31 PM ET

Forget MySpace and iTunes.

The hottest digital entertainment these days is video sites such as YouTube that allow people to post their own short videos, as well as watch thousands of clips posted by fellow users.

It's free, and once you register, you get access to an eclectic array of entertainment, such as racy Japanese lingerie commercials, sports bloopers, pet tricks, music videos and Iraq war footage.

The success of YouTube, which a half-year after its launch is streaming more than 50 million video clips a day, has spawned 180 video sites in the past three months alone.

"Visits to online video sites have increased fourfold in the past six months," says LeeAnn Prescott of Hitwise, an online measurement company. "Online video has become the latest evolution in consumer-generated content."

YouTube is now the 39th most popular website, according to Hitwise stats. Two months ago, it was No. 75. YouTube says 50,000 videos are uploaded to its site daily.

Hollywood wants to use this power to promote movies by posting trailers on the sites in the hopes they get passed around by fans. Dozens of trailers were among YouTube's most viewed sites this past weekend, including a teaser trailer for Transformers (since removed), which is due in theaters next year.

"The consumer ultimately becomes the creative evangelist promoting our films," says Universal Studios' Ken Graffeo.

And not just the big studios are taking notice.

"YouTube is a key component of our overall marketing and publicity strategy," MPI's Greg Newman says. "It allows independent labels like our Dark Sky Films imprint (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) to reach infinitely more consumers than we could ever hope to with a traditional advertising spend."

Average Joes and Janes, meanwhile, are seeking fame.

Brooke "Brookers" Brodack, 20, of Holden, Mass., posted videos of herself dancing and doing parody and was signed to a program development deal by NBC's Carson Daly. One of her videos has been viewed more than 1 million times.

Tim Palen, co-president of theatrical marketing for Lionsgate films, calls the site "the perfect example of the public's unquenchable desire for access."

Lionsgate promotes all of its films on YouTube.

Adds Palen: "Andy Warhol's dream of '15 minutes of fame' has arrived. On YouTube, everyone's an actor, everyone's a director — everyone's a star."