NEW YORK – YouTube Inc. said on Tuesday it is talking with record labels to post thousands of music videos online, aiming to move beyond being a site for sharing home videos to a provider of mainstream entertainment like Yahoo and others.
YouTube, which sprung out of nowhere a year ago to now claim over 100 millions views a day, is negotiating for rights to post current and archive music videos on its site, and said any commercial model it decides on will offer the videos free.
"What we really want to do is in six to 12 months, maybe 18 months, to have every music video ever created up on YouTube," co-founder Steve Chen told Reuters. "We're trying to bring in as much of this content as we can on to the site."
He said YouTube intends to differentiate itself from pay-to-view or download services such as Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) iTunes and Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) AOL Music, or others like Yahoo Inc.'s (YHOO) Yahoo Music, which is supported by an advertising revenue share model with record labels.
San Mateo, Calif.-based YouTube says its videos account for 60 percent of all videos watched online. The site specializes in short, homemade, comic clips created by users.
The start-up plans to integrate the record companies' videos into the community features of its site, allowing users to add the videos to their own profiles and post reviews like on Amazon.com (AMZN) and RealNetworks' (RNWK) Rhapsody.
Its business model is being developed in tandem with all the major record labels, YouTube said, but did not give any names.
Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG) and London-based EMI confirmed to Reuters that they have been in discussions with YouTube.
"Yahoo Launch is almost an exact parallel of MTV but viewed through a web browser," Chen said. "We add the whole user community feel, with 100 million views every day and user-generated content."
Getting the record labels to agree to a business model is crucial as YouTube has run into trouble in the past when users posted copyrighted videos from television shows.
In March, the start-up was asked by television broadcaster NBC to remove clips of the popular "Lazy Sunday" hip-hop spoof, which was originally broadcast on "Saturday Night Live."
However, that order by NBC, whose parent NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric Co. (GE), was a precursor to a promotional partnership with YouTube a few months later in June.
YouTube says its policy is to take down pirated content from the site as soon as it is aware of it.
"Right now we're trying to very quickly determine how and what the model is to distribute this content and we're very aggressive in assisting the labels in trying to get the content on to YouTube," Chen added.
Warner Music and EMI said they are each trying to work out a business model with YouTube. Other major record companies including Universal Music and Sony BMG could not be reached for immediate comment.
"We're obviously interested in legitimate use scenarios and trying to broaden those, and our focus with YouTube is how to be partners while protecting our artists and ensuring they get paid," said Michael Nash, senior vice-president of digital and business development at Warner Music.
YouTube on Tuesday suffered its first unplanned outage, lasting six hours, and blamed a database-related issue.
"To clarify and ensure accuracy, the site is not down for maintenance," YouTube spokeswoman Julie Supan in a statement released shortly before the site recovered. "This was an unplanned outage."