YouTube isn't the only one going Hollywood these days. Video hub Metacafe has overhauled its home page to showcase the professional content it offers, focusing initially on movie trailers, music videos and sports highlights, with other categories to follow.
The revamped home page also features an oversized billboard ad unit geared toward rich media and video-centric campaigns. Sponsoring the new front page at launch is Universal Pictures to promote the upcoming Will Ferrell adventure-comedy "Land of the Lost," opening June 5.
It's the first of a four-movie ad deal that Universal has struck with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Metacafe in connection with the site's new HD-capable movie trailer section. The site is also touting an exclusive clip from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane's "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy," coming out May 12 on Blu-ray and DVD.
Metacafe's makeover follows on the heels of YouTube retooling its home page to highlight the host of TV shows it now boasts through a spate of recent deals with entertainment companies including Sony Pictures, CBS and MGM. For sites built on viral video like YouTube and Metacafe, premium content is the new focus as they seek a more reliable path to increased ad revenue and profitability.
"This shows where our space is evolving as entertainment," said Erick Hachenburg, CEO of Metacafe, which already distributes video clips from some 80 content providers including The Onion, Playboy and Howcast. Fox Sports and entertainment site Fuel TV are the latest partners to join, adding sports clips to Metacafe's existing NBA videos.
Hachenburg said user-submitted clips still generate the vast majority of views on Metacafe, but he expects more prominent play on the home page will build the audience for premium video. Unlike YouTube and Hulu, however, shifting toward full-length TV episodes or movies still isn't part of the picture. "This is very much a media-snacking environment where people move from video to video," he said.
Gartner Inc. last year estimated that the "protail video" market of higher-quality niche content found on sites like YouTube and Metacafe would reach $75 million in 2008 and hit $1.5 billion by 2012. Key to such growth is establishing "clean, well-lit" places for both advertisers and consumers, according to Gartner.
Hachenburg said Metacafe's revenue had doubled in the last year (without specifying actual figures), while its U.S. audience as of January had grown 61% to 11 million from a year ago, according to comScore. Founded in Tel Aviv six years ago, Metacafe had a much larger worldwide audience of almost 47 million at the start of 2009. That figure is also up about 60%.
But even with a growing audience, Metacafe's U.S. viewership is still dwarfed by YouTube's audience of more than 100 million. And with the video giant now offering a wider range of content than ever, smaller players like Metacafe will have an even bigger challenge remaining viable.
For his part, Hachenburg stresses that the company's carefully curated offerings, filtered both by user input and its own editorial staff, help distinguish it from YouTube and other video sites. "Ninety percent of the content we get never gets on the site,' he said.