NEW YORK (Billboard) - Warner Music Group is taking on YouTube at its own game, with the launch of its first free-to-view Web 2.0 video jukebox.
Rhino TV — centered on Warner’s catalog brand, which recently rolled out internationally — is the first “digital hub” to be launched through Warner Music International’s strategic partnership with digital services provider Premium TV. It will feature video content from Warner acts including Madonna, R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
London-based WMI chairman/CEO Patrick Vien, who planned to soft-launch the service June 29 at a music business conference in London, gave Billboard an exclusive first look at the test site (rhino.tv). He stressed that Warner will continue to license content to YouTube — with whom Warner signed a commercial partnership in 2006 — and other third-party video sites, and described the launch as “a chance to take control of the way that we organize our content.”
“With the digital revolution comes chances for us to touch our consumers directly,” he said. “Operating our own destinations is a big part of capitalizing on that.”
Videos will be available free for streaming, but the site aims to monetize content in multiple ways. Videos will be preceded by in-stream and banner advertising — in-stream advertisers on the beta site include Domino’s Pizza and Cisco — and consumers will be able to pay for video downloads that the beta site prices at 1.99 pounds ($3.97). An online store will sell downloads, CDs and merchandise as well, and Warner anticipates additional income from syndicating content to other sites and enabling consumers to embed videos in social networking pages.
The site will soft-launch with 2,000 videos and exclusive interview/documentary footage from the Doors and the Traveling Wilburys, and the number will rise “significantly” by the time of the full consumer launch in August, Vien said. Future hubs could focus on specific acts, labels, genres or lifestyle sectors or “create completely new brands,” he said, although all will be music-centered.
Vien declined to reveal the extent of Warner’s investment or financial targets but said he expects to see a return “soon.”
“We’re building these sites as full business models,” he saids. “We expect them to generate revenue, we expect to invest in turning them into premium destinations, and we expect to make a profit.”