In their attempts to make the content of digital video and television searchable, search engines are increasingly racing to form partnerships with content providers and to bolster their indexes of video content.
Yahoo Inc. joined the partnership race on Thursday as it made its video search engine generally available. The company announced a series of partnership with networks and movie studios such as Buena Vista Pictures, CBS News, MTV and Discovery Communications to feed video information to its index.
Meanwhile, search startup Blinkx Inc. on Monday will announce its ninth video partnership, this time with New York-based Transmission Films, an on-demand video service for independent films. Blinkx runs a video search service called blinkx.tv, which is based on its own transcriptions of videos.
And while not announcing specific partner deals, Google Inc. earlier this week did expand the number of channels being included in its video-search service. Google added 12 channels, including the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel and CNN.
All the moves point to a heightened race to collect and organize video, whether it is already on the Web or still traveling the airwaves.
“The way that this market is evolving, because the significant video is not all on the Web, is that one of the early success points will be who gets what relationships,” said Allen Weiner, a research director at Gartner Inc.
So far with its partnerships, Yahoo is accessing video that is already publicly available on the Web and has not formed exclusive search relationships, said Jeff Karnes, Yahoos director of media search.
One exception is with video coming from the Yahoo network of sites, where Yahoo has formed some exclusive relationships with such television producers as Mark Burnett Productions, which is behind the reality shows “The Apprentice” and “The Contender.”
By working with the content providers, Yahoo is able to have video fed to its index and give the providers options about what thumbnail still-frame image would appear in search results, Karnes said
“The partnerships are important to us for our overall strategy of building a comprehensive index so that we become the place to go for video search on the Web,” Karnes said.
Along with content partnerships, Yahoo increased the size of its video index by crawling the Web and tweaked its algorithms to improve relevancy as part of moving Yahoo Video out of beta. Karnes declined to give details about the size of the Yahoo Video index.
Yahoos partnering strategy is extending beyond major networks. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company said it is working with online companies such as Internet Broadcasting Systems Inc., iFilm Corp., the One Network Inc. and Stupid Videos. It also is indexing video from the nonprofit Internet Archive.
San Francisco-based Blinkx has pursued partners partly as a way to get access to television programs and video that may be premium Web content or not currently available online, said Blinkx co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Suranga Chandratillake.
Its content deals include deals with Reuters and Fox. Blinkx also has tapped into on-demand video on the Web. Along with its planned deal with Transmission Films, it already has a partnership with Movielink LLC, which makes movies from major studios available for download.
“For all the content thats available on the Web for free, there is a lot more content that isnt available on the Web for free,” Chandratillake said. “Its one thing to build search for NPR stories for the last month, but its something else to search for any television program broadcast in the United States.”
Google, so far, has taken a different approach by recording broadcasts of television programs to power its video search engine. When Google Video went into a beta test earlier this year, it allowed users to search the programming information and closed-captioning data from broadcasters.
Google has not provided video playback or links to video that is available on the Web. The Mountain View, Calif., company, though, has started to collect digital video for a future video-search effort. It launched the submission program last month as a way for both individuals and larger video producers to provide their video files.
Collecting and indexing video is an important step for the search engines to take before television and video content can become more broadly accessible on the Web, Weiner said.
“This is the less glamorous part of the business,” Weiner said. “Its the mechanics part of the business, but its the part that needs to work to enable the next step of monetization.”
For now, the business models behind video search remain in flux, especially as the search engines contend with the complex copyright and royalty issues involved in video from traditional broadcasting.
Neither Yahoo nor Google has offered many details about how it plans to make money from its video search offering, though both companies run the Webs largest programs for sponsored listings that presumably could be extended to Web search results.
Blinkx, for its part, does receive a revenue share as part of some of its agreements with content providers when users pay to watch premium video content online, Chandratillake said.
Editors Note: This story was updated to clarify incorrect information provided to Ziff Davis Internet about Blinkxs video partnerships.
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