Viacom goes one way, BBC the other

by Mathew on March 2, 2007 · 4 comments

So Viacom is apparently bragging about how traffic to its properties, including Comedy Central, has climbed by as much as 90 per cent since it told YouTube to take down 100,000 or so of its video clips. And much of that traffic boost is people coming to watch videos, the company says.

GoogleTV2.jpgTo me, this sounds like some premature back-patting by whichever senior executive at the media conglomerate decided to get all medieval on YouTube for hosting things like clips of Jon Stewart, or South Park’s brilliant World of Warcraft parody episode. It will be interesting to see whether those traffic increases stick or not. And it’s also interesting to see that the venerable BBC — an “old” media giant that has been teaching much younger media outlets a thing or two about new media for some time now — has taken a different tack when it comes to YouTube.

The Beeb has signed a deal to host several channels at YouTube, with short clips that the broadcaster says it hopes will drive traffic back to the BBC hubs. Since the Beeb is financed by a TV licensing fee (which it polices using high-tech “TV detection vans”), there will be IP blocks for anyone located in Britain — although not for the BBC Worldwide channel, as PaidContent notes.

This seems like a much smarter strategy to me than just pulling hundreds of thousands of clips (in fact, the BBC has said that it doesn’t plan to crack down on the clips that are already out there). The broadcaster presumably gets some juice from the clips, it gets some ad revenue as well, and then drives some traffic back to the full video content at its own site. Win-win, theoretically — although Ben Metcalfe seems to disagree with me.

Of course, there’s always Mark Cuban’s approach as well. And while we’re on the subject of back-patting, YouTube doesn’t seem to have suffered all that much as a result of the Viacom clips disappearing, and is busy signing deals with smaller content owners, including the NBA. See Mark Cuban’s comment below.

Update:

Seamus McCauley has some thoughts (somewhat conspiratorial) about why the BBC might have wanted to do a deal with YouTube. Could it be all about the licensing fee?

  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    On the block, does this mean that UK-ers who were previously watching (unauthorized) Beeb stuff on YouTube – and who were hoping to do so in the future – now can’t, unless it happens to be on the Worldwide channel? Interesting.

  • Mathew

    I’m not sure, Rob. That’s a good question.

  • http://www.hd.net mark cuban

    Mathew, does anyone know how much traffic there is for Youtube in the UK ?

    From what i see, BBC is giving up very little. They have a small cable channel in the US, dont produce content in the US and how much revenue can they generate in the US at this point ?

    So what are they giving up ?

    In the UK they agree to let Google sell commercials around their commercials for their shows. Thats smart.

    It would be the equivalent of Viacom saying “dont let people in the US watch clips I want to protect, but you can do whatever you want with it in the UK”. Wouldnt it ?

  • Mathew

    That’s a good point, Mark. As far as I know, YouTube’s penetration outside of the U.S. is relatively small, but I don’t know about the UK specifically.

    I think you are right about the BBC deal. It seems to me they are giving up very little, and potentially gaining a lot. Sounds like a no-brainer to me — which is why I find it odd that Ben Metcalfe doesn’t like the idea.

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