Bebo launches free video content deal

LONDON (Reuters) - A host of media groups including CBS, BSkyB and the BBC will provide free video content to the 40 million users on Bebo and keep any advertising revenues under a deal with the social networking site.

Bebo said on Tuesday its new “Open Media” system would allow users to store their favorite video and music content within their profile pages, and share it with others on the network.

The company expects the thousands of hours of entertainment content to make the site more attractive to users and therefore increase the value of its own advertising.

For the media companies involved, they will use their own video players to distribute content and will retain all of the advertising-related revenues. They will not be charged to distribute their content.

“Every media company is looking for better ways to deliver their content online,” Bebo President Joanna Shields said.

“By opening our platform to media owners, who gain free access to our community while retaining control over their brand, their content and their revenues, we are creating valuable new inventory for advertisers and a new business model for the entire media industry.”

Social networking sites such as Bebo, Facebook and MySpace are hugely popular with younger Web users -- an important yet hard-to-reach category for advertisers -- but media groups have struggled to convert their soaring popularity into revenue.

Bebo says its average user ranges from 13 to 24 years old and spends 40 minutes on the site each day they log on.

Facebook recently announced a new advertising system that will let companies introduce ads into the user pages of its 50 million members, and launch dedicated pages on the site for their brands.

Hulu, a free, advertising-supported online video service formed by NBC Universal and News Corp, launched at the end of last month.

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Greg Mahlich