By Max Delany
As if the myriad videos of amateur strippers and people falling off skateboards were not enough, starting from Monday, web users were also able to while away their time watching Russia Today programs on YouTube.
A noncommercial deal has seen state-funded broadcaster Russia Today follow moves by a string of international media giants, including BBC, NBC, Reuters and Al-Jazeera, to hook up with the world's leading video-sharing web site in a bid to boost its global reach.
"Our new channel on YouTube will give us the chance to reach out to millions of Internet users who find it more convenient to go online to find news comment," Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today, said in a statement.
Under the agreement, programs from the English-language, 24-hour satellite television station will be available via a branded channel on YouTube and updated daily.
The deal is primarily designed to extend audience reach rather than generate income, said Chris Khouri, a London-based media expert for Datamonitor Europe. "If you move to these online platforms, you are able to drag traffic to your own web sites and services," Khouri said.
As such deals are a relatively recent phenomenon, Khouri said it would take at least another twelve months to assess the effectiveness of the project. But due to the minimal outlay, the deal represents only a "limited risk," he said.
"We estimate that interest in news coming from Russia will attract, as a minimum, thousand of users," a spokeswoman for the channel said. She added that it was too early to say whether Russia Today would make programs specifically for the YouTube link.
Russia Today said in a statement that the YouTube agreement is the first such deal involving a Russian broadcaster.
Currently, 2,000 people watch Russia Today via the Internet every day, the channel's spokeswoman said.
Over 100 million clips are viewed daily on YouTube, with the site attracting visits from around 34 million users per month in the United States alone.