DailyMotion turning heads in Hollywood

5:00 AM PST 07/27/2007 by Andrew Wallenstein, AP

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A Web site looming large in the shadow of YouTube is getting seen by Hollywood in a whole new light.

DailyMotion, a Paris-based video hub second only to Google's prize purchase in online traffic among sites specializing in video sharing, has locked a deal to license programming from production company RDF USA. It is one of the first such pacts DailyMotion has made as it seeks to supplement its massive stash of user-generated content.

How RDF USA -- best known for supplying TV shows like ABC's "Shaq's Big Challenge" to broadcast and cable channels -- is getting in business for the first time with a Web site reflects the changing dynamics of Internet video. And DailyMotion is leading the charge, having launched officially in the U.S. several weeks ago with a staff of handpicked old-media veterans from the likes of Viacom and Time Warner.

Consider DailyMotion the most popular Web site you've never heard of: The site had 37.5 million unique users worldwide and 3.2 million in the U.S. in May and topped YouTube in its home base of France. YouTube dwarfs DailyMotion in the U.S., but its 4.7 million streamers (which translates to people who actually watch videos as opposed to just visiting) in April led other indie dot-com comers, including MetaCafe and Break.com, according to comScore Media Metrix.

"While it will clearly be very difficult for any video site to replicate what YouTube has accomplished, DailyMotion.com is stating the strongest case at the moment, both domestically and internationally," said Erin Hunter, executive vp media and entertainment solutions at comScore.

Added Max Benator, head of RDF USA's digital division: "It's really exciting because they have amazing traffic. It's been untapped by the entertainment community, so we see this as a great opportunity to be one of the first producers to get access to those eyeballs."

The nonexclusive first-look deal calls for RDF to deliver eight program concepts for shortform video programming to DailyMotion during the next 12 months. The company is exploring possibilities in comedy, drama and even political fare; brand integration also likely will be in the mix.

DailyMotion is only the latest viral-video outpost to bring professionally produced content into the fold as competitors like Break.com have already struck similar deals with NBC Universal Digital Studios. Other pro-content link-ups have been struck through acquisition, as is the case with Sony Corp.'s snatching of Grouper, which has since been rebranded Crackle and fed original programming.

Viral sites have in effect become the new cable, budding channels that are starting to get enough advertiser attention to command modest budgets for programming. "We're looking at a strategy not so different than what I learned in my years at MTV," said Joy Marcus, GM of DailyMotion's U.S. operation. She was senior vp global marketing at Time Warner and vp international business development at MTV.

Marcus is surrounded by recovered conglomerate brethren, including Catherine Mullen, former GM of MTV U.K. and Ireland who leads international content acquisition and development, and Danny Passman, who was a development exec at VH1 and Fuse.

To begin winning over advertisers, DailyMotion is attempting to shake a reputation as a piracy hotbed that dogs many video-sharing sites. This month, the site actually lost a lawsuit for carrying a copyrighted clip of a French film that cost it $30,000 in damages.

But DailyMotion also has begun using a digital fingerprinting system called Audible Magic, which will match its database of 60 million videos with the holdings of major content owners. So-called leech sites also are being blocked. "I think we've cleaned up our act on that front," Marcus said.

RDF USA isn't DailyMotion's first content deal; the company already has wrapped up "The Great Sketch Comedy Showdown," produced by Jim Biederman, who already has produced series in that genre for established TV channels, including "The Whitest Kids U Know" (Fuse) and "The Big Gay Sketch Show" (Logo).

What appealed to Biederman about DailyMotion is its knack for curating its vast content holdings into easily navigable channels. "Its user-generated material is programd versus something like YouTube, which is this giant catalog," he said.

DailyMotion has since launched another contest with the Weinstein Co. for "The Ultimate Star Wars Fanboy (or Girl!)."

"Our goal is to take this big bucket of user-generated content and make it a meaningful entertainment experience for the watcher," Marcus said. "Then I think there's the other side of the fence, which is working with the creative community."
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