YouTube quakes in its boots (or not)

Freaky, yet fastidious: it's Friday's IT Blogwatch: in which NBC and News Corp. aim to rival YouTube. Not to mention funny IT-related YouTube videos...

Todd R. Weiss reports:

In a frontal assault on rival Google Inc. and its wildly popular online video division, YouTube Inc., entertainment company NBC Universal and media company News Corp. today announced plans to launch an online video Web site that will offer premium video content from more than a dozen TV networks and two major film studios. The deal allows the two companies to join forces with a formidable list of online partners such as AOL, MSN, MySpace.com and Yahoo Inc. and includes large corporations that are already signing on as advertisers in the new venture.

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The deal is noteworthy given last week's lawsuit by media company Viacom International Inc. against YouTube and Google. That $1 billion lawsuit alleges that the two are infringing on Viacom's copyrights because almost 160,000 unauthorized video clips are available for viewing on YouTube. What makes the NBC Universal deal with News Corp. and its partners different is that it includes a long list of content providers from the start; that could help avoid similar copyright disputes in the future.

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Full episodes and clips from current hit TV shows, including "Heroes," "24," "House," "My Name Is Earl," "Saturday Night Live," "Friday Night Lights," "The Riches," "30 Rock," "The Simpsons," "The Tonight Show," "Prison Break," "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader" and "Top Chef" -- plus hits from the studios' television libraries -- will be available for free when the site launches. Personalized video playlists, mashups, online communities and video searches will also be featured, according to the companies. Films such as Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, The Devil Wears Prada, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy will also be available for viewing.

Jacqui Cheng adds:

Video available via the new service will be ad-supported and "free" to consumers via the web.

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Rumors of such a partnership have been popping up since the middle of last year. The major TV networks have shown interest in distributing their content online, but have been hesitant to make use of YouTube's extremely popular channel when they (think) they can create one themselves. Why let a competitor distribute your content when you could do so yourself?

The success of News Corp. and NBC's new service will be watched closely by competitors. The companies already have the advantage of a strong network of partnerships for both content and distribution channels, but will the suits and ties at these companies be able to create something as virally popular as YouTube?

Dylan Tweney notes that "YouTube killer" is too simplistic:

A phone press conference with Jeff Zucker, President & CEO of NBC Universal, and Peter Chernin, President and COO of News Corp., provides some additional information. Video will be copy protected, no question about that: "IP protection … is critically important to both companies," Chernin says. However, users will be able to share video and even mash up videos, Chernin says. When I post videos (mashed up or not) on my own site, they'll appear with the new company's player, and with advertising from the joint ad network.

The new joint venture, which has yet to be given a name, aims to distribute its video content as widely as possible, subject to copy protections. In fact, Chernin says they had discussions with Google CEO Eric Schmidt this morning about the possibility of syndicating video content to YouTube.

Michael Arrington agrees:

This won’t be a direct YouTube competitor in that the focus will be on distribution of content to third party sites: deals may already be in place with Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and News Corp.’s MySpace. There may or may not be a dedicated website for this content as well.

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I think this will ... launch very late. Joint ventures are notoriously difficult to manage, and adding third party distribution partners to the mix will add complexity. And of course the technology needs to work, and these companies are not now for building web based applications. Google doesn’t seem to be particularly worried, either: execs are reportedly referring to the project as “Clown Co.”

John Murrell quips:

It'll be just like YouTube, only with less You ... If you can't beat 'em and you can't join 'em, co-opt 'em. That seems to be the plan ... The motive is simple: self defense.

BusinessWeek's Heather Green has more detail on the revenue model:

The service will have its own ad sales that will sell the ads across the distribution partners. This is key because then the Hollywood players keep control of what's really important to them: making money. It's clear to me that letting their content be distributed widely doesn't really matter if they can make money on it. Beyond paying for overhead, the revenues will go back to the companies providing the content and a portion will go to the distribution partners.

MobyDisk is worried about NBC's track record:

I hope it is better than NBC's Video Rewind site which lets you view previous episodes of their shows. It is so glitchy that it is probably easier for an end-user to install BitTorrent, find a site, and download it ... They divide it into 6 sections and run short commercials in-between -- shorter than network TV commercials, which would be nice... except that half the time it gets stuck and doesn't move on to the next section. Then if you try to seek it displays another commercial. And it plays the video before it is buffered so you have to pause/play it manually and guesstimate when it is safe. Then of course, if you mis-click, or the playback glitches, you seek and get an ad and have to start over. It took me 2 hours to watch a 1 hour episodeof Lost.

To top it off, it crashed when I exit the browser (Safari) which is sad since I can spent hours watching videos on YouTube without it crashing.

Jeremiah Cornelius says, "It misunderstands the interest in YouTube":

YouTube is not popular because people are "snagging free stuff" that they already have on their Tivo, etc. Repackaging the TV is stupid. That is an aspect of YouTube, and the only one that this is a reaction to ... The Internet is a social phenomenon, not just a marketing experience. People who've destroyed their creative thinking process in the marketing field fail to understand this.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Ten funny IT YouTube videos

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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