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Lionsgate Strikes Deal With YouTube

Santa Monica, Calif. – Lionsgate,which produces entertainment ranging from the Saw films to the hit TV show Mad Men, has struck a deal with YouTube that permits video clips from the studio’s content to be posted on the user-generated site, officials said Wednesday.

In fact, Lionsgate will have a branded channel on YouTube, a unit of Google, according to officials at the independent film and TV studio. Lionsgate is one of the first movie studios to come forward and reach some kind of agreement with YouTube over the use of its film and TV content on the Web site.

In effect, Lionsgate is trying to monetize the use of its content on YouTube, circumventing the illegal posting and piracy of its movies and TV shows.

“We put focus on what we could do to monetize the content that we wanted to have on YouTube,” said Curt Marvis, Lionsgate’s president of digital distribution, during an interview in the company’s headquarters in Santa Monica.

The deal was first disclosed by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at Ad Age’s "Madison + Vine Conference" Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Lionsgate plans to monetize its content being sampled on YouTube by running ads with it, and use the clips as a “gateway,” with links so consumers can go on and buy full-length versions of the films or TV shows they are checking out via the video clips, either via digital download or DVDs.

“It becomes a very strong channel for us to reach an audience of people who are interested in our content,” Marvis said. 

Lionsgate and YouTube will reportedly share revenue generated by their agreement.

Marvis pointed out that the music industry tried and failed to stop digital downloads.

“It’s been well-documented that they spent a lot of time and effort and energy trying to stop the digital business, and it clearly was not a solution that worked,” Marvis said. “Lionsgate wants to be a leader in saying, ‘Protecting copyright is important to us, securing the assets we spent lots of dollars creating is critically important to us.’ But with that said, we want to embrace digital distribution as a new avenue for consumers to come watch our content. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Marvis cited as an example the movie Dirty Dancing, which he said has had millions of views on YouTube via clips that fans of the movie have posted.

“No one’s received any money from that,” he said. “If there’s an interest on YouTube from millions of people that want to watch clips of Dirty Dancing, why not create a little bit more control around that in terms of saying, ‘We’re not going to pull down everything and stop anyone from seeing a Dirty Dancing clip, but we’re going to put it up there and we’re going to monetize those clips – in other words put some ads against them, so we can make some ancillary revenue.”   

Liongate, which already has a YouTube marketing channel where it just puts up movie trailers and promotional material, has a library with more than 12,000 titles.