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LATV Fest: Hoffner Says YouTube to Focus on Long-Form Video Model

Having successfully tackled the short-form content market, YouTube is now focusing much of its attention on the long-form model, Jordan Hoffner, director of content partnerships at YouTube said in his keynote at the NATPE LATV Fest in Los Angeles Wednesday.

"Being in a long-form business is not a bad thing," Hoffner said. "Hats off to our friends at [the networks]. There's growth there. We're here in the growth business."

He said this shift was a big strategy change for the company-one of the most significant to date.

Hoffner believes half the battle is making this content easy for the user to find.

He touted the site's new show landing pages, which highlight both short- and long-form content. "This is the first navigation we've had on YouTube in years," he said. "You are always one-click away from long-form content no matter where you are on YouTube. You have to find it in a clean, well-lit place." These show pages, he says, allow users to easily move across the network.

But, partnering with networks and studios to house their content on YouTube has, at times, revealed a difference in priorities.

"There is a struggle with how users search and find content versus how studios and networks value from it," he said.

Hoffner says media companies want to focus on "windowing" - such as releasing a certain amount of episodes at a time, while he believes monetization will come from users being able to search for and find all the content they want, when they want.

Monetizing this content with pre-roll ads seems to be becoming more acceptable to the users, Hoffner said.

"The experience is not like watching commercials on television and I think users are ok with that. We are seeing longer view times."

He also says the economics to the advertiser are appealing.

"Brand advertisers are ok with advertising on this content because they have been doing it for years," Hoffner said. "They are becoming a bit indifferent about where the show exists - the important thing is that it's on that show."

Hoffner also addressed YouTube's main competition -- NBC Univeral-owned Hulu.

"I think Hulu is doing a really good job. It has locked up three of four networks," Hoffner said. "But, they're not delivering the videos from Iran or videos that bring people together."

He said Hulu is a great product that supplements a DVR and views them as a great competitor. "As long as there is more stuff out there, we are always going to be in good shape as a community."

Hoffner is also focusing on giving viewers the best experience possible, despite additional costs, and is not blind to the fact that connection speeds are increasing and HD is the new thing.

"It's kind of like HD and the networks. No one is making extra on commercials," he said. "It's just the cost of doing business."

Hoffner also understands the need for YouTube's partners to have quality control.

YouTube's partnership with Sony and Crackle allows them to embed their own players into the site so they can control their content. Similarly, as part of the company's recent content deal with Disney-ABC Television Group and ESPN, the network's will also be integrating their player in its YouTube channel, in addition to providing short-form content to be placed directly into the YouTube video player.

As far as the online video business has come, Hoffner reminded attendees that, "we're still early in the online revolution."

Viewers still watch 153 hours of television programming each month compared to three hours of online video, according to data he cited.

"We're patient," he said. "We want to give people a reason to come to YouTube."