YouTube Goes Wider, Expands Video Player

WASHINGTON ~ YouTube, after years of complaints over the size of its video player, expanded the size of its screen this week, adopting a widescreen format.

The Google-owned video-sharing site, which has also been experimenting recently with high-definition video, announced the change to a widescreen format in a posting on the YouTube blog.

“Over the years we’ve heard a lot of feedback from you about what you’d like to change about YouTube, and the size of our video player is always top of mind,” YouTube said.

“We’re expanding the width of the page to 960 pixels to better reflect the quality of the videos you create and the screens that you use to watch them,” it added.

The switch to a widescreen format is the latest in a number of recent moves at YouTube, which was purchased by Google for US$1.65 billion in 2006 but has been unable so far to turn its massive popularity into profits.

It recently unveiled a feature called “theater view” that enhances its video screen by making it larger, centering it on pages and bordering it with virtual red curtains.

YouTube last month added links to online stores.

“‘Click-to-buy’ links are being discretely placed in control panels below YouTube videos to invite people to visit online shops iTunes or to buy music, books, films or other material related to snippets watched.

YouTube also recently announced that advertisers would be able to “sponsor” videos and bid on key words people use for searches on the site.

YouTube also staged a “live” concert over the weekend and announced earlier this month that it would host some full-length television shows and films from famed Hollywood studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM).

Under an agreement with CBS and the independent Lionsgate studio, YouTube recently began adding episodes of classic television programs such as Star Trek, MacGyver and Beverly Hills 90210 to its menu.

YouTube is the number one site for amateur video, but it has had a troubled relationship with Hollywood and other producers of professional content.

Entertainment giant Viacom has filed a copyright lawsuit against YouTube accusing it of being a willing accomplice to Internet users who put clips of Viacom’s copyrighted television programs on the site.

Its first live event on Saturday was part concert and part variety show and drew comments from viewers ranging from “AWESOME!” to “train wreck.”

The star of the show was Grammy-award winning musician of the Black-Eyed Peas, whose song “Yes We Can” in tribute to Democratic candidate Barack Obama has been viewed nearly 14 million times on YouTube.

Google has moved slowly to “monetize” YouTube out of concern it might irk notoriously transient Web surfers who could easily switch to rival video sites.

YouTube has been facing competition from other sites such as Daily Motion and Hulu which features a menu of full-length programming from NBC Universal and News Corp.’s Fox.

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