Published: April 12, 2011 @ 10:58 pm
By Steve Pond
Google wants you, Hollywood — but it’s a little unclear on exactly what it wants from you
And YouTube just might have big plans for the movie business — just don’t ask for any details quite yet.
That was the upshot from Google’s ThinkMovies presentation on Tuesday at West Hollywood’s London hotel.
The Northern California-based internet giant pitched its wares, brought in web experts and told more than 100 studio and marketing personnel that the cloud is the key, mobile is the platform of the future, and YouTube is the place to go to take out movie ads and engage with an enormous, active audience.
But at the end of the day, the company – which has been taking a slew of meetings recently with Hollywood talent agencies and which by all accounts has big plans to expand its YouTube from a user-driven platform to one populated by and more accommodating to movie professionals – was awfully vague about what it plans to do.
“Obviously, there are things coming, but we can’t talk about them yet,” said Robert Kyncl, Google’s vice president of TV & Film Entertainment, at the beginning of the final presentation of the day.
Later, he teased one of those things: “Imagine if you had a video store on YouTube, where you could rent or buy the movie without being sent elsewhere.”
Certainly, it’s not hard to imagine that. Not with Facebook moving into direct streaming of features, Netflix’s and Amazon’s streaming optionx commanding a larger and larger piece of their businesses, and other sites with nowhere near YouTube’s audience following suit.
I’s a no-brainer to think that the platform that dominates short-form video content, including movie trailers, would finally get around to grabbing for a piece of the long-form content pie.
But for now, it remains in the realm of imagine if.
Asked by TheWrap if Google is going to take what seems to be a logical step, and turn YouTube into a place to stream and buy feature-length films, the company’s director of media and entertainment Adam Stewart said, “It’s a great question” — and then refused to answer it.
“All I would say is that any change that would happen with YouTube would be based on a tremendous amount of data.”
Earlier, Kyncl said that the Netflix business model wouldn’t necessarily work with YouTube, which Google bought in 2006 for $1.6 billion.
“The biggest difference between us and companies like Netflix,” he said, “is that they have a very high-intent entry to their site, and then low distribution throughout the site. With us, it’s the opposite.”
Users who go to Netflix, he explained, set out to go there and find a movie to rent or stream. By contrast, YouTube is a largely user-generated site that relies on individual videos going viral to draw traffic.
Most users go there not through the homepage but because a friend has sent them a link to a specific video on the site.
Kyncl said that an audience that arrives by accident, as it were, needs to be treated differently than a Netflix-type business – even if YouTube’s overall audience dwarfs the audience of the rental site.
Of course, some of Google’s upcoming plans may change all that. According to agency and studio reps who’ve taken meetings with Google in recent months, the company is planning to create a series of channels, and to recruit top Hollywood talent to supply original content for them. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google is planning to spend as much as $100 million on that venture.
Stewart also declined to comment on those reports — and the ThinkMovies presentations didn’t supply any information about Google’s plans in that arena.
Instead, the focus remained not on new collaborations with Hollywood talent, or on changing YouTube to become a “video store,” but on the marketing side of the Google and YouTube, and how the studios can take advantage.
“The studios continue to do an excellent job in terms of building awareness, but there’s a lot more that they can do to convert from awareness to actual ticket purchase,” said Stewart. “There is tremendous amount of information available across our platforms, and we think it’s critical for us and vital for the studios for us to share our insights.”
Three speakers from outside the company talked about the overall issues facing the movie industry, and made projections for the future; six speakers from Google focused more intently on how Hollywood studios should incorporate the company into its plans.
This meant sales pitches for Google’s Android mobile platform, for ads that show up when users enter search terms, for ways in which studio marketing dollars can be directed toward Google.
“Interesting,” said one studio rep at the end of the day. “But a little rudimentary for those of us who’ve been doing this for a while.”
And at the end of the eight-hour day, those in attendance still didn’t know if Google was going to enlist Hollywood stars to create original content, or start paying for the rights to stream the latest hits; they couldn’t tell if the site that dominates trailers was going to step up to deliver the full-length movies those trailers promote.
“I’m not sure if they know exactly what they want to do yet,” the studio exec said with a laugh. “But they’re Google. They have enough money to play around with until they figure it out.”