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YouTube has a fight on its hands with News Corp. and NBC today announcing plans to create a premium online video distribution site well-backed by major media players.

The yet-unnamed service has initial content suppliers, MSN, Yahoo!, Time Warner/AOL and Myspace on its side of the ring, all itching for a piece of the pie currently dominated by the 'Tube. Each site will have its own embedded player displaying the video content. Shows such as "Heroes," "House," "24" and movies such as "Borat" and "Little Miss Sunshine" will be featured on the service when it rolls out. And users will be able to upload their own videos as well.

The service is set to debut this summer with initial advertisers Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel and General Motors paying the bills.

The new video network may be a titillating prospect to media gloms eager to get content online but wary of YouTube's reputation of hosting unlicensed clips. The 'Tube was recently sued by Viacom for $1bn in damages over copyright infringement claims.

The fresh service would also mark an attempt by some very large, very powerful companies to wrestle online content control away from YouTube owner Google. (Hence the appearance of Yahoo!, Microsoft and others.)

The new site may face an uphill battle, however, to steal the hearts and minds of the immense YouTube clan. Market researcher Hitwise lists the service as the 12th most trafficked site on the internet.

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

A transitional management team for the new LA and New York-based company will be lead by NBCU's chief digital officer George Kliavkoff for the launch. The site's permanent management team will be announced shortly. ®

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