I’ve kept meaning to write about YouTube and their ongoing battles with entertainment companies but the news changes so often that by the time I’m done typing this, the battle lines will get redrawn again. But for the time being, it’s worth pausing to consider recent developments as the content providers are scared that they’re gonna screw things up as badly as they did with music and hope to get it right this time. As they’re finding out now, there’s no magical formula yet and just like in the music biz, the TV and film companies are still scrambling around, looking for a way to mint money online with their offline content.
It started with Google snapping up YouTube for mucho bucks, making the TV/film companies wonder “if it’s such a valuable commodity and they’re thriving from our own content, why aren’t we getting a piece of the action?” To calm these fears and more specifically to head off any lawsuits, Google got the message and decided that they’re take action: Google sees video antipiracy tools as priority. At first, this meant that they were going to ask the entertainment companies to pony up money to develop tracking software to keep their content from being posted without their permission. When the companies threw a fit and called it blackmail, Google had to back down a bit.
But something else happened. The entertainment companies decided that they couldn’t trust Google and maybe should stake out the online world on their own own. Check out a New York Times article where Viacom not only demanded that YouTube remove its content (including MTV material) but they were also courting News Corporation (aka Fox) to set up a YouTube alternative:
The Old Guard Flexes Its Muscles (While It Still Can). In other words, they don’t want to deal with another upstart behemoth like Apple and want to keep control in their own hands and make their own terms, which is the same conclusion that Mark Cuban came up with on his blog: Oscars.com vs Youtube.com and the value of hosting on Gootube “... the last thing you ever want is for another entity, that is completely out of your control, becoming the defacto manager of your brand. So the question is this. If a content owner, like the Oscars, wants to control their content and their brand, what can they do?”
The question then is can these media moguls create a viable alternative to YouTube that will not only attract web users but also advertisers. So far, their track record is pretty piss poor (look how badly they’ve done with music) and they must know it by now. Their best hope is that some other upstart usurps YouTube and they get in the ground floor of the new enterprise to control it and pull the strings tightly. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Of course, art itself is usually left out of such commerce discussions except for the odd think piece. One of the better ones which looks at YouTube through the way it’s actually consumed and how it will effect the way consumers will experience video/TV/film is Ann Hornaday’s Rules for YouTube: Make Art, Not Bore. Good as this is, my only complaint is that it doesn’t go far enough into how the online visual media is changing our video experience in terms of how we absorb it, i.e. the size of our computer screen and the length of the videos. Where’s Marshall McLuhan when we need him? Still gone, sad to say…