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Feature-Length Films Coming To YouTube

I'm still not entirely convinced of the viability of long-form video broadcasts over Internet airwaves, unless the provider gives the viewer the option to make the content easily and efficiently portable for viewing on multiple devices - from handheld PDAs with 3-inch screens, to home theater set-ups with gigantic wall-mounted displays. I just don't envision a future in which the average multimedia consumer will be content with the limitations that accompany watching anything longer than a few minutes of video on the average desktop or laptop screen. Certainly technology has made it possible to link your computer desktop or laptop to your 46-inch, wall-mounted Samsung LCD screen, but there's that nagging quality issue that you'll have to take into account, especially if the content provider hasn't made considerations for large format, high-definition viewing. It's an expensive endeavor for any provider, which is partly why it hasn't become as ubiquitous as it could be, or as many would expect, at this stage of broadband bandwidth use.

Even if it were to suddenly become the standard, I think there'll certainly be a period of adjustment, because most of us are not accustomed to watching full-length material of say more than 30 minutes, on our computer screens. It's as if there's this innate assignment of roles that happens internally - i.e. when we think of the web, short-form video is the rule, and we instead relegate all long-form content to old media standards, specifically the theatre and the television. The mind doesn't quite yet want to make the leap and associate the web with feature-length material. That could certainly change in time - after all, the Internet is still a relatively novel phenomenon, still not yet fully exploited.

However, according to
Fortune Magazine, the folks over at YouTube (Google) seem to think a little differently, or at least, they are willing to challenge my theory by experimenting with full-length video. Why? Money of course, what else - to hopefully attract more advertisers.

They have already posted a handful of lengthy videos, including a feature film titled Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman, a comedy about "a small town tuxedo salesman who thinks he's the next Evel Knievel." The film is 1 hour and 35 minutes long. It's also racked up more than 1.1 million views since its July 2007 debut. Impressive numbers certainly - that's about as many tickets that were sold last weekend alone for the Sex And The City movie.

Despite those numbers, I'm still not convinced. I'd like to see this happen repeatedly, over a long enough period of time, with similar and even better results, before I'd be willing to buy stock in this.

But we'll probably see a lot more full-length features like this on YouTube, as they continue to experiment. It's clear that the company wants to expand its offerings, which is a good thing and necessary if it's to survive in the long term. And this seems like the most logical move, given its business model, as well as the fact that most major network content providers, ABC, NBC, Fox, et al, are combatting the free use of their programming on YouTube by cracking down on piracy challengers and creating video streaming sites of their own for their television shows, or making them available for sale on iTunes.

The Fortune article states that YouTube has been courting independent directors this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, to consider showcasing their work on the website.

What's in it for the filmmaker, especially since the films will be made available for free viewing?

Exposure mostly. With the potential to reach YouTube's 69 million monthly users, or even just a fraction of that number, that can be enticing for any fledgling indie filmmaker, even though those millions of eyeballs wouldn't be paying a cent for the experience. My guess is that YouTube's plan here will be the same one that they offered the TV networks - content providers, in this case, the filmmakers, will share in advertising revenue made from the viewings of their film, which could be anything from $0 to possibly thousands, if not millions of dollars (that would have to be a very popular film). But, I suppose knowing that there's the potential for my film to reach millions of viewers as well as pad my bank account a little, can inspire any filmmaker to take the chance - especially when you're without many other options, like a distribution deal from a brick & mortar distribution company.

Browsing the YouTube page for Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman, I noticed that the filmmaker is selling the film on DVD for $15.50 on another website, with a link prominently displayed. I have no idea how many copies of the disk have been sold (I'll have to research that), but that's an attractive feature. Viewers watch the film on YouTube, and if they like it, they can buy the higher quality DVD version for $15.50. And I'm guessing that the filmmaker will pocket 100% of money from direct sales, although, YouTube certainly could justify receiving a cut of its own, after all, it's made your film readily available to millions of eye balls at no monetary cost to you. Even if only 10% of those 1.1 million views that Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman has received decide to buy the film at the $15.50 asking price listed on the sales site, that's more than $1.5 million in gross sales (granted, 1.1 million views on YouTube doesn't automatically mean that 1.1 million people have watched the film).

And lastly, there's always the possibility of getting the attention of a Hollywood executive, and signing on with a studio to write and/or direct future projects, whether commercial or personal.

You can read the entire YouTube article on Fortune's website HERE.


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