"Idols" TV producer Fremantle seals YouTube deal

LONDON (Reuters) - FremantleMedia, producer of the “Idols” reality-TV show format and soap opera “Neighbours,” has agreed a deal to produce programs to be shown exclusively on YouTube and to split revenues with the video-sharing site.

Fremantle, part of Europe’s RTL broadcast group, said the deal would seal a partnership that has already begun with Fremantle YouTube channels for shows such as UK hit talent contest “The X Factor” and Australia’s “Hole in the Wall.”

“Following a period of creative experimentation, FremantleMedia is cementing its relationship with us for content distribution,” Patrick Walker, YouTube’s director of video partnerships in Europe, the Middle East and Asia said on Monday.

Fremantle will use YouTube’s VideoID technology, which recognizes and scans YouTube for copyright-infringing video and then allows the copyright holder to block the video, leave it there to promote the content or place ads next to it.

Claire Tavernier, head of Fremantle’s FMX new media division, said the deal offered a chance to make money for the first time from showing Fremantle content on YouTube as well as the opportunity to have YouTube promote its programs.

She declined to estimate how much the deal might bring in over time but noted that the “American Idol” website alone made $13 million last year.

“We know there is money in that field and we also know YouTube has the audience,” she told Reuters by telephone. “This is a key way of tapping into that value.”

YouTube, the world’s biggest video-sharing site, which was bought by Google two years ago, has also just agreed to show full-length TV shows and films from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s archive to boost ad revenue by adding professional programing.

Last month, YouTube forged a similar partnership with CBS Corp.

Until now, YouTube has mainly featured short clips of 10 minutes or less made and uploaded by users.

The new partnerships put the company increasingly into direct competition with Hulu, an online video site owned by News Corp and General Electric’s NBC Universal, which shows up-to-date full-length shows from U.S. networks.