In First for Studios, Paramount Offers Snippets of Movies

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By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Paramount Pictures is chopping its feature films into short scenes, some as little as a few seconds, and distributing them free on the Internet, becoming the first major movie studio to answer consumers' desire for repeat viewings of short-form video on such sites as YouTube.

Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, launched the service yesterday on Facebook, the popular social-networking site. The application is called VooZoo; it is a combination clip library and media player. It includes scenes from such films as "Braveheart," "Sunset Boulevard," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "School of Rock." The clips include a link that sends users to http://Amazon.com to buy DVDs of the movies.

Increasingly, consumers want to watch archived on-demand short video, such as skits from "Saturday Night Live" or highlights from a football game that was played weeks if not years ago.

Other movie studios may be reluctant to join Paramount, owing to complicated rights and residuals issues. Also, some directors retain "final cut" privileges over their films and may not want them sliced into scenes. The issue includes some tricky guild rules, too, that can prohibit the re-purposing of content created as one piece.

Yet the market has demanded bite-sized clips from nearly every other form of video content. And clips are so easily retrievable on YouTube that it is no longer surprising to find one. An e-mail conversation between two friends fondly remembering, say, a Phil Hartman skit from a 1992 "SNL" episode can be augmented in seconds with a link to the clip online.

Frequently, such clips are unauthorized. They have been bootlegged and posted in violation of copyright laws. Viacom is suing YouTube, which is owned by Google, over the unauthorized posting of clips from such Viacom television programs as "The Daily Show."

VooZoo is a first attempt by a major film studio to give consumers what they want, within the law.

Derek Broes, Paramount's executive vice president for digital entertainment, got the idea about a year ago, when he began using Facebook. He saw the popular network as "voyeuristic" and a "zoo of people," he said yesterday, which gave him the idea for the name VooZoo.

Paramount sells its full-length movies on Apple's iTunes. Apple not only popularized the online music store, the company recognized and answered the growing desire for a la carte entertainment.

Broes said Paramount has not yet talked to Apple about selling the movie clips on iTunes but said he probably will soon. Apple declined to comment.

Paramount and other movie studios make their money on windows of distribution for their films -- theatrical release, followed by DVD sales, rental, video on demand, premium cable, basic cable and then network television. Each window is predicated on the idea of selling the entire movie.

Broes recognized the popularity of short-form video on the Internet and saw the movie clips as a way of driving more users to Facebook, thereby increasing advertising views, and using the clips as what he calls "moving emoticons": ways for Facebook users to communicate with each other. So, instead of typing "What do you think of that?" a Facebook user may send a clip of Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown" saying, "How do you like them apples?"

For now, Broes said, the clips are streaming only, meaning they cannot be downloaded onto a device and kept. So far, the service has dozens of Paramount films in the VooZoo vault, and continues to work to add more, sifting through the studio's library. The application could become ad-supported, Broes said.

"Our intention is to continue clipping movies and get as much product as possible out there so the consumer has a diverse collection to choose from," Broes said.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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