Google-owned YouTube has inked one of its most significant content deals by agreeing a partnership with the BBC.

YouTube will create three BBC branded channels, two for ‘short-form’ video content and a third for BBC News clips. All should prove highly popular, but two will host advertising.

The BBC signed up to the deal on a non-exclusive basis as part of its remit to “secure commercial revenue via BBC Worldwide, to supplement the licence fee”.

The deal allows the BBC to reach out to new audiences who may subsequently sign up to the BBC iPlayer service.

There are other reasons for getting into bed with YouTube, according to BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, who describes the partnership as “ground-breaking” but also said that it will provide “the opportunity to learn about new forms of audience behaviour”.

Thompson nodded towards similar deals in the future, by adding: “It’s essential that the BBC embraces new ways of reaching wider audiences with non-exclusive partnerships such as these.”

But Ashley Highfield, the BBC’s Director of Future Media and Technology, made clear the BBC’s stance by saying that the deal is “not about distributing content like full-length programmes; YouTube is a promotional vehicle for us”. And a bloody good one at that.

So what BBC content will we see on these new YouTube channels?

  • The BBC
    channel: Clips of new shows and specially commissioned promotional content linked to popular series such as Doctor Who and Life on Mars.
  • The entertainment-focused, advertising-supported BBC Worldwide channel: Clips from material such as Top Gear, Spooks, The Catherine Tate Show, The Mighty Boosh and a range of factual programmes featuring the likes of the mighty David Attenborough.
  • Then finally there’s the BBC World channel: Roughly 30 news clips per day, with up-to-the-minute news and analysis from around the world. Advertising-funded clips will be available to users outside the UK only.

Good move by both sides, and an intriguing one from the Beeb…