Disney-ABC, ESPN Ink Deal With YouTube

The Disney-ABC Television Group and ESPN inked a content deal with YouTube, far and away the Web’s most popular video site.

The agreement, which covers short-form content from all of the companies' assets, will allow it to sell its own advertising inventory within the Disney/ABC and ESPN channels.

ESPN’s channel will roll out in mid April, while channels for the other properties, including SOAPnet, ABC Family, ABC News and ABC Entertainment, will roll out in May.

As part of the deal, ESPN’s video player will be integrated into ESPN’s YouTube channel, and the network will also provide short-form content to be placed into the YouTube video player.

At launch, the videos will feature traditional display and overlay ads, though pre-roll advertising will be tested on the short-form content as well.

“This deal provides us with the opportunity to reach a broader online audience, to experiment with different monetization models and to extend the reach of our advertisers within branded environments that they most desire,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, announcing the deal. “We look forward to working together with YouTube to reach their vast community with our incredible portfolio of high-quality, short-form content to better serve consumers and advertisers.”

The agreement is a big one for YouTube, which was purchased by search giant Google in 2006 for just over $1.6 billion.

The site dominated the online video space, but has had a difficult time monetizing the amateur content. To help remedy the situation the site has been trying to secure deals with professional content providers, seeking to add not only short-form content, as is the case with Disney-ABC, but long-form content as well, similar to a deal with CBS last year. The idea is that the professional content is far easier to sell against than videos of cats playing pianos, or a BMX trick gone awry.

YouTube is trying to leverage its vast quantities of amateur content to push users to the professional content, where the views can be monetized more easily.

By letting the professional companies sell some of their own inventory, and by splitting revenue on the other ads, YouTube is hoping to lure as many companies it can into the fray.

The New York Times reported Monday that Turner Networks were in discussions with the site to add its own long and short-form content to the site.