A wafer-thin slice of the future of TV

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGqX-tkDXEk] For a bunch of aging comedians, the Monty Python crew have always been a bit ahead of many of their younger contemporaries when it comes to the internet. Now they've gone where many other TV shows would fear to go - uploading their content for free onto YouTube.

As the Guardian reports, they've used the site's Video ID system to identify their material that's been uploaded (without their permission), replacing it with better quality footage on their own YouTube channel and attaching adverts to the clips urging watchers to buy their DVDs. That immediately appears to have paid off:

"And there is method in the Pythonesque madness of giving away valuable content for free - Monty Python's DVD sales are up more than 1,000% following the launch of their YouTube channel, and that's on Amazon alone. Fans must have been listening to the Python message: "We want you to click on links and buy our movies and TV shows. Only this will soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years ...""

As a fan, it's a great idea - high quality clips for free, while there's no better way to get you in the frame of mind to buy some classic Python. The quality of the clips is definitely a key hook - why trawl through poor-quality stuff when you've got the official stuff in all its glory?

Would this approach work for other shows? Well, the Python team are in a pretty privileged position as they've got an established brand and a very large fanbase - not to mention (I'd imagine) hundreds of people searching for clips on YouTube every day.

Whether it'd work for a smaller show trying to make a name for itself or a lengthy drama is an interesting one - but it certainly couldn't hurt to try.

YouTube is a massive player in online video, so it makes sense to try and utilise it - and if the content's officially sanctioned, it does give the show's owner some degree of control. And, as the Python team have already shown, it can have a positive effect on sales.

It's all part of the more social experience that viewers come to expect online today, and shows that YouTube is hear to stay and should be considered in any promotional strategy. Quite how you then drive traffic from there to your own website, and then ensure you make money from it, is another question entirely. But if you're not engaging in some way with these sites, there's always a risk of becoming a dead parrot.