Vevo Up & Running

There’s a new video site on the ol’ Internet, serving up ads with music vids, original content and exclusive premieres.

Created through a partnership between Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and the Abu Dhabi Media Company, Vevo experienced a somewhat rocky launch Dec. 8 as the site repeatedly crashed under the weight of new users.

But opening-day jitters aside, Vevo is a pretty impressive-looking site that enables users to find the videos they’re looking for without having to wade through a multitude of false returns.

Which is a big plus for music fans tired of plowing through everything YouTube might return in response to a query. After all, if you want to see Lady Gaga’s latest video, you don’t want to browse several karaoke vids featuring fans singing her songs.

But Vevo isn’t exactly a YouTube competitor. Instead, it acts more like a front end while YouTube actually hosts the files.

More to the point, Vevo is for music industry folks wanting to monetize music videos on the Web. By acting as a filter eliminating all non-musical elements that result from a YouTube search and then showing users advertisements along with the videos, Vevo ensures an ad-supported environment.

In other words, Vevo is more about business-to-business than business to customer, as it provides content owners with a better mousetrap to snag music fans for watching ad-supported videos. Because Vevo delivers to its advertisers people wanting a cleaner online video experience, the service can charge higher ad rates than YouTube or other video sites.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just business, and it gives record labels and other content owners a real chance at making a few bucks by supplying free, albeit ad-supported, music.

“This has the potential to be a true game changer for consumers, artists and brands,” Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Doug Morris said.

“Artists and brands will benefit from being connected like never before with their fans, which are the most sought after demographic on the Web. We’re excited about the potential of the new service and we’re looking forward to working with all of our new content providers, distributors and brands who want to take full advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

Fries With Your WiFi?

If traveling comes with the job, you’ve probably already assembled a list of free WiFi locations throughout your journeys. Now you can add one more place for free Internet connections – McDonald’s.

The fast-food chain already provides WiFi in 11,000 of its 14,000 U.S. locations, according to the Dallas Morning News, but customers must pay $2.95 for two hours of connectivity.

McDonald’s will change all that starting in mid-January when it drops its WiFi fees. The move is expected to make the company one of the largest free-access companies in the country.

McDonald’s is offering the free WiFi through a deal with AT&T but has not disclosed details.

AT&T has been offering free WiFi at a number of chain store locations, including Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, and has served up more than 51 million connections this year, double the number it provided users during 2008.

According to AT&T, the way folks use those WiFi connections has changed during the past few years. While customers during the early WiFi days mostly used laptops to connect via WiFi to the Internet, today’s users rely on smart phones for no-strings-attached Web surfing.

Pirating Wolverine

Considering the possible penalties for illegally copying a movie and distributing it on the Internet, you just gotta wonder why some folks would even bother.

Like Gilberto Sanchez, who was recently indicted for illegally distributing illicit copies of the movie “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” The 47-year-old Bronx resident, who was indicted Dec. 10 by a federal grand jury for violating copyright law, was arrested by FBI agents Dec. 16.

According to the indictment, Sanchez uploaded the flick to a Web site last spring. As to the punishment for serving up a pirated film, there seems to be a variety of possible outcomes.

Sanchez could receive up to three years in prison. However, in addition to the jail time, Sanchez could be fined $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss (it goes both ways) that can be attributed to his actions, whichever amount is greater.

YouTube’s Top 5

Who’s No. 1 among YouTube viewers in 2009? That would be Susan Boyle, the “Britain’s Got Talent” contestant who captured the world’s attention with her phenomenal voice.

In its first Top Five listing presented for any year, Google-owned YouTube says Boyle’s reality show moment attracted more than 120 million users worldwide.

Second place went to a video titled “David After Dentist” starring a 7-year-old boy musing about whether he’d ever feel normal again after undergoing a session in the dentist’s chair, which received 37 million views.

And remember Sony grumbling about “JK Wedding Entrance Dance,” a video depicting a bride and groom along with their wedding party performing a routine set to Chris Brown’s “Forever”? That was No. 3 on YouTube during 2009 because of its 33 million views. Sony eventually learned to love the gag when a link was embedded leading viewers to where they could buy the song. Sony also received some bucks resulting from advertising linked to the vid.

Commercials occupied slots four and five in YouTube’s Top 5 as the trailer for the movie “New Moon” received 31 million views and Evian’s Roller Babies commercial snagged 27 million plays.

Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me” was the most-viewed music video with 82 million views, followed by two Miley Cyrus vids – “The Climb” receiving 64 million plays and “Party In The U.S.A.” getting 54 million views.

The Lonely Island’s music video for “I’m On A Boat” was the fourth most-watched music video on YouTube with 48 million views and Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” captured fifth place with 35 million views.

And just to show you how far we’ve progressed since the year began, in January the fastest-rising YouTube search term throughout the world was “inauguration.”

And December’s fastest-rising search term? That should be easy to guess. It’s “Tiger Woods.”