TV Guide cuts the clutter

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TV Guide is trying to muscle in on YouTube's considerable turf.

The publication famous for its television-centric editorial and show listings will launch at TVGuide.com on Tuesday its Online Video Guide, a search service that will attempt to filter out the junk and leave users with the best of Internet video that is related to television.

Searching for video content of "24" or "The Office," for example, at Google, Yahoo or any other search engine leads to a painful array of too many choices, said Paul Greenberg, GM of TV Guide Online. At TVGuide.com, though, a search of "24" at the new search device will first point users to free episodes available at Fox.com, then to all the other professionally produced content related to the show.

The company's Online Video Guide also will determine which of the amateur videos is popular enough to warrant a link. For example, a search for "Britney" will bring up music videos, her recent appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards and the YouTube "Leave Britney Alone" video that is so popular and disturbing.

"We're filling a niche that Google and YouTube are not because they're not strictly TV-focused," said Greenberg, who said that as many as 70% of YouTube users are there seeking professional content and not the user-generated video that made YouTube famous.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, TVGuide.com garnered 4.9 million unique visitors in August, up 70% year-over-year. The print publication, meanwhile, has seen its subscribers slowly fall to 3.2 million, at last count.

Many shows are available free and on-demand at network sites with short, infrequent commercial breaks attached. But while TV Guide's Online Video Guide takes large numbers of users to those sites, it so far gets no monetary benefit from the traffic it generates. It does, of course, sell ads at TVGuide.com.

"We're talking to content holders in order to cut deals for a small slice of the advertising revenue," Greenberg said.

The Online Video Guide also lets users specify that they're looking only for free content in order to further narrow the search away from the likes of iTunes or Amazon.com's Unbox.

"Part of the way we're marketing this is, 'Oh, you forgot to set your TiVo? Here's the show you missed, for free,' " Greenberg said.

While Online Video Guide officially launches Tuesday, it has been in beta since April.
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