Attention all virtual clerks: Google’s Video Store is opening for business.
It’s a completely open marketplace, meaning the largest entertainment companies-or an individual-can upload video to the service for free.
Here’s how the online service works: The Google Video Store allows consumers to buy or rent content. Content providers have sole discretion to set parameters for price, copy protection and whether the content is available on a download-to-own or rental basis (which means the content expires after 24 hours), said Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google Video.
The service was poised to go live last Friday with 40 content providers on board, including CBS, the National Basketball Association and a handful of lesser-known players, Google co-founder Larry Page announced that day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The financial model is a revenue split between Google and the content provider, with the standard being 70/30 in favor of the content provider.
That’s about the same revenue split that Apple’s iTunes uses, said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst with Forrester Research.
The move is significant because it represents yet another platform available to content owners, underscoring the notion that content is king in this new world of many and multiplying video distribution platforms. And clearly the key feature of Google’s platform is its flexibility.
“The more variety of distribution, the better for content owners,” Mr. Bernoff said.
“We are completely open so we allow anyone to sell any kind of content through us,” Mr. Chane said. “We have open pricing, open copy protection.”
The service is accessible on the Internet and users must download the Google Video Player to view the content.
Content owners in the initial release have selected a wide range of pricing options and copy protection.
CBS, for example, will offer the most recent season of “Survivor” for $1.99 per episode commercial-free on a download-to-own basis, and will also offer copy-protected classic TV shows from the CBS/Paramount library such as “The Brady Bunch,” “I Love Lucy,” “Star Trek Voyager” and others for the same price. What’s more, CBS will offer copy-protected $1.99 rentals for current episodes of “NCIS,” “CSI” and “Amazing Race” one day after they air.
The service will also feature all NBA games, including playoffs and finals, 24 hours after they are played, on a copy-protected, download-to-own basis for $3.95. “If you are a fan of a team and you don’t get those games in your area, you can watch them on Google,” Mr. Chane said. (Similarly, the day after the Rose Bowl last week-a nail-biter in which Texas beat Southern California in the game’s final minutes-Disney’s ABC Sports made available an abridged video version of the game on Apple’s iTunes.)
The deal between Google and the NBA does not appear to be exclusive. “We’ll continue to have conversations with others in the industry about making content available,” said Brenda Spoonemore, senior VP of interactive services for NBA Entertainment.
Ms. Spoonemore would not discuss financial aspects of the deal, including how the $3.95 per video would be split.
She said the games being made available at the Google Video Store would mostly be the same ones available via the NBA League Pass, a package that provides subscribers with NBA games from outside their standard viewing area. The current games will contain whichever commercials were included when they were first televised. Classic games will not include commercials.
“It’s a fascinating next step in the media business,” Ms. Spoonemore said. For example, if a fan wanted to watch the Knicks’ triple-overtime win against the Suns last week, they now can do it via broadband.
“This enables us to take an underexploited resource-our archive of games-and make it available to fans after 24 hours,” Ms. Spoonemore said. “Those are not currently monetized.”
Other TV content in the Google deal includes past episodes of PBS’s “Charlie Rose” for 99 cents apiece. The “Charlie Rose” content will not include copy protection, meaning users can download the shows and transfer them to portable devices like the iPod and Sony PSP.
Other content owners in the first release include independent film companies and Classic Media, which owns the rights to cartoons “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Felix the Cat.”
The content is a broad mix because users want all sorts of video that they can’t necessarily get through other means, Mr. Chane said. Lesser-known content is quite popular too, he said.
The service is also significant because it allows content owners instant worldwide distribution of their video.
One of the most attractive features of the Google platform is its flexibility, Mr. Bernoff said. Content owners can test a variety of pricing models to determine which works best for them, he said.
Jon Lafayette contributed to this story.
Google Video Store
Content: 40 providers, including CBS and the National Basketball Association; content available on a download-to-own or rental basis for 24 hours
Pricing: Content providers choose pricing
Revenue: Split about 70/30 between content provider and Google
CBS deal highlights: CBS content includes most recent season of “Survivor” commercial-free for $1.99 per episode on a download-to-own basis, some classic TV show episodes and $1.99 rentals for current episodes of “NCIS,” “CSI” and “Amazing Race” one day after they air
NBA deal highlights: NBA content includes all playoffs and finals, 24 hours after they are played, on a download-to-own basis for $3.95