YouTube videos will be viewable on cell phones for the first time under a deal with Verizon Wireless, which will also allow users to upload videos shot with their camera phones.
The partnership to be announced Tuesday marks the first big distribution deal for YouTube since the young video-sharing Web site was acquired earlier this month by Google Inc. for $1.76 billion.
The mobile YouTube service, to be launched in early December, will be offered for no additional fee as part of Verizon's V Cast service, which costs subscribers $15 per month or $3 per day. The companies declined to provide an exact launch day, saying the technologies being employed are still being tested.
Like the rest of V Cast, but unlike YouTube's Web site, the mobile service will be ad-free. The companies declined to discuss any financial terms to the partnership except to say that Verizon Wireless will have exclusive U.S. rights to cellular distribution of YouTube videos for an undisclosed period.
Verizon Wireless will feature a YouTube channel in its V Cast application, which is available on 14 of the company's handset models. The channel will offer categories such as the most viewed or most discussed videos from the YouTube site, said Robin Chan, director for entertainment programming for Verizon Wireless.
To upload a video shot on a Verizon handset to the YouTube Web site, users will use the same function that's used to share pictures with friends, known as multimedia messaging service or MMS. Users will enter a short numeric code to send the video.
Notably, while YouTube executives stressed the appeal of watching videos on the go, Verizon Wireless sees the uploading feature as a significant draw.
"All things happen in real time in real world, and the mobile phone is a terminal where you can capture that on video, so it is a core device for user-generated content," said Chan, calling current modes of uploading videos to the Web cumbersome.
YouTube executives said the company will ensure that the clips offered will be screened to include only those that meet with Verizon Wireless content guidelines. Those guidelines forbid Verizon's partners from transmitting copyrighted material and "adult" content.
That's a key restriction, as YouTube's immense success has hinged on a combination of "homemade" user-generated content as well as volumes of copyrighted video.
Although YouTube has promptly removed pirated videos from its site whenever copyright owners complain, questions linger about the site's vulnerability to a barrage of potential law suits, especially now that it has Google's deep pockets behind it.
To lessen the risk, YouTube recently forged partnerships with Universal Music Group, CBS Corp., Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Inc. The truce with Universal was a significant breakthrough because the world's largest record company had threatened to sue for copyright infringement.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.