SAN FRANCISCO — Video sites and content owners have typically wanted to hold their intellectual property close. But now, many are finding that providing multiple channels creates complimentary audiences rather than taking away from their main site’s business.

In a panel discussing online video here at Digital Media Conference West this week, some of the Web’s biggest players in online video revealed some of the benefits they were seeing from getting their content out through multiple channels.

Many might wonder if a site such as Funny or Die or DailyMotion, which are mainly video content, would look to air their material on more established sites such as YouTube or even cable networks — yet both sites are already doing just that, and say they’re reaping the rewards.

Funny or Die, which said it has benefited from remaining frugal since its April 2007 launch, is reaching to a wide array of additional platforms: In November, the celebrity-driven comedy site will launch its first YouTube channel, and next year, it has a half-hour branded content series set to debut on HBO.

However, industry players say these new streams aren’t likely to detract from its main Web site.

“Now that you have built up traffic to a site, the vast majority of members finding content on YouTube is additive,” said Kevin Yen, director of strategic partnerships at Google’s YouTube.

Mitch Gailbraith, chief operating officer of Funny or Die, added: “The YouTube audience is likely to be separate from “habituated traffic of people who come to our site from direct navigation, bookmarks,” and other means.

Even when a site isn’t branching out to other platforms, it still finds legs through other means. “We’re not currently syndicating. [Our site] is a viral site,” said Joy Marcus, U.S. general manager at Dailymotion.

Being viral means “they can spread anywhere they want it — that’s the beautifulness of how this tool works,” Marcus said.

While audiences tend to like free content, there is room for a paid channel as well, panelists said. Anthony Soohoo, senior vice president and general manager of entertainment and lifestyle at CBS Interactive/TV.com, said the company has had success with its content on iTunes.

On the other hand, platforms can sink when there is no audience.

“The challenge is putting distribution and content to the right audience,” Soohoo said.

The TV property created the site Innertube.com to support original content, and later pulled the plug on the project.

“It didn’t have the scale and partnerships with YouTube,” Soohoo said. Some creative properties that debuted on the site, including a series of 20 episodes featuring actor Michael Cera, will find new distribution in the coming months.

Others agreed that paid and free models can coexist, with some adding that a price tag next to ad-supported content will help educate consumers to accept ads more readily.

Craig Newmark, founder and customer service representative at Craigslist, supports coexisting models.

“I want to see everything tried because different approaches will work for different niches,” he said. “TV ads survived for years, but I would pay a little for Hulu so we don’t need to see ads. Ads are kind of dumb.”

It’s possible the commercial needs to be reinvented for the Web. “It started off as a bumpy ride –started with the challenge of what’s a TV commercial and what’s a branded video,” Gailbraith said.

He later added that the formula of branded entertainment isn’t tricking the audience.

“If it smells like an ad, they won’t watch it.”