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Google streams sitcom premiere

Posted by inet - 2005-10-25

Google unveiled its first significant partnership with a television network Monday, a deal that allows it to show the entire first episode of UPN's sitcom ``Everybody Hates Chris'' on its Web site.
The move is more familiar to online portals such as Yahoo and AOL. And it hints at what might be yet to come from the Mountain View technology giant, which wants to maximize the amount of the world's video that is searchable.

Internet users can find the pilot episode of the show -- based on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock -- at Google's video site at http://video. google.com. The show originally aired last week on UPN and contains no commercials when viewed on Google. It will stay on Google's site until the second episode of the show airs Thursday.

``It offers UPN the ability to make the program accessible to millions of people who use Google,'' said Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google Video. ``Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come.''

Google has been coy about its specific plans for video, which could add a major new dimension to its often-stated goal of organizing the world's information. But Chane said the company's ambitions are big.

``You'll definitely see us indexing more shows,'' Chane said. ``We want to work with everyone who has high-quality video content. We're not discriminating. We're going after all of it.''

The test airing of the show is the latest evolution of Google Video, launched in January. The service originally offered people a way to search for content from television news, sports and entertainment shows that were not hosted on Google's computers. Although Google records the television shows, users only have had access to text snippets of the shows, along with still images.

Over the summer, Google broadened the service to allow people to upload video to its Web site that they want to share with the world.

Jupiter Research analyst David Card said the latest move is puzzling, especially for UPN, which is part of Viacom's CBS Television division. Unlike Yahoo and AOL, which are flashy Web portals with established relationships with TV networks, Google does not appear to be an ideal promotional vehicle for a television show, he said.

``It's not like there's a Google entertainment section like there is with the other sites,'' Card said. ``Google doesn't feel like a company that is going to totally program your viewing experience. Why didn't UPN do a deal with Yahoo or somebody who gets the traffic? That's my big mystery.''

But Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media, which negotiated the deal for UPN, said that partnerships with companies such as Yahoo and AOL have their drawbacks.

In this instance, UPN wanted to draw traffic to its own Web site, and Google agreed to link to the UPN site. By contrast, portals such as Yahoo and AOL tend to want users to stay on their own sites.

Also, Kramer said, much of the television-related traffic that ends up at portals comes through search engines. So it made sense to do a deal with the world's most popular search engine.

As part of the deal with Google, when someone searches on any of 300 keywords related to the Chris Rock show, their results will display a prominent link to the ``Everybody Hates Chris'' video.

``This is what drives traffic,'' said Kramer, adding that UPN approached Google about the partnership. ``We want to see how many people watch the show. We want to see what it does to the second show as far as holding and building an audience.''

Neither side would discuss the terms of the deal.

The Chris Rock streamcast is a test for both companies. UPN needed to get approval for the test from the people who own the rights to the show, such as the producers, who would normally expect some form of payment every time the show is aired online.

``Ultimately, if you're going to do more of this thing, there has to be a revenue model to support the rights-holders,'' Kramer said.

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