Rumours continue to fly that some or all of the major TV networks are working on a “YouTube killer” — a video-sharing site that all the big content owners would contribute their stuff to, while simultaneously suing the pants off of Google and YouTube. That way, they could continue to control their content on the Web as well as on the public airwaves. Slam dunk, right? The talk about a possible takeover of Metacafe is just the latest development.
If you’re not laughing yet, you should be. This is exactly the same kind of boneheaded idea the major record labels came up with back when Napster was disrupting the global music industry. Of course, getting all the labels to co-operate was like trying to bring peace to the Middle East, so the industry wound up pursuing just the “sue the pants off” part of the strategy. Then Apple came along with iTunes, and now it has the record labels on a short chain.
Two things are relatively certain about this network-backed “YouTube killer.” Number 1: It will probably never happen, because the networks won’t be able to co-operate, and will spend all their time bickering about who gets what, or the best way to bugger everything up with DRM. And Number 2: If it ever does happen, it will suck. Either it won’t be easy enough, or it won’t include the things people want, or it won’t be easy to share, or it will be clogged up with DRM, or all of the above.
As Say No To Crack (a humour site) says in the comments on Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch post, the networks would probably want to have entire shows, but “online viewers want the freedom to watch hundreds of videos quickly, sift through the mess, and then skip over the ads and junk shows.” The networks would also probably never allow a fast forward button, or would have a mandatory sponsor clip at the beginning, which would wreck it even further. Say No To Crack is right.
What made YouTube popular is that it was free, easy to use, easy to share, and had lots of different kinds of content. Anything the networks could come up with — even using Metacafe as a base — is unlikely to have any of those characteristics, and therefore the odds are it would be a miserable failure. VC Fred Wilson is also underwhelmed by the idea.
As Rafat Ali mentions at PaidContent, Jon Fine at Business Week was the first to mention this possibility.