Unshaken by its legal problems in the US, online video leader YouTube will attempt to extend its cultural reach and increase its moneymaking opportunities by programming new channels in nine other countries.
The expansion, announced yesterday in Paris, will make new YouTube sites available in Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK.
The nine Web sites will be translated into the native languages of each country, when necessary, and allow YouTube to highlight videos that appeal to local audiences.
Most visitors to YouTube's Web site in the US already come from computers located in other countries, so creating more international channels is a step the San Bruno-based company always hoped to take, co-founder Steve Chen (
But the expansion didn't become viable until online search leader Google Inc bought YouTube for US$1.76 billion late last year.
YouTube says it streams more than 200 million videos each day.
By making its programming more accessible to people who don't speak English, YouTube is hoping to stimulate even more usage outside the US. Targeting specific markets may also appeal to advertisers.
"We really feel like we are going to be providing a better product around the world," YouTube chief executive Chad Hurley said in a phone interview.
The expansion could also deliver new challenges for YouTube as it tries to adhere to the laws and community standards of other nations.
YouTube is already battling allegations that it has profited from copyright videos that users post without proper authorization.
In the highest profile case, Viacom Inc is suing YouTube and Google for US$1 billion in damages. But another federal lawsuit filed in New York has already provided a glimpse at some of the legal trouble that YouTube could encounter in other counties.
The parties who filed the class-action suit include the Premier League, the top soccer league in England; the Federation Francaise de Tennis, which puts on the French Open; and the Ligue de Football Professionnel, another soccer league in France.
The claims in the case are currently limited to copyright violations that occurred on YouTube's US site, said Louis Solomon, an attorney representing the sports leagues.
"But if they operate in the same unlawful manner that they do in the United States, they will get lawsuits in other countries, too," Solomon said.
YouTube has licensing agreements with more than 150 content providers in Europe and is trying to negotiate more, according to the company.
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