Verizon: Stupid, stupid, stupid

I know that Forrest Gump said “Stupid is as stupid does,” but there’s really no other word for what Verizon is doing with its much-heralded launch of YouTube video on cellphones. I mean, really. How much stupider could this get? The answer, to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap, is none — none stupider. Fred Wilson sums it up in a single word: Lame. In fact, this deal is right off the lame-o-meter. How do I lame-ify thee? Let me count the ways.


Watching video clips on your cellphone would be great, right? Except that Verizon will only let you watch them if you subscribe to a monthly service called VCast. And YouTube is great because of all the cool videos on there, right? Except that Verizon will select some for you to watch, rather than letting you do the selecting. As Rob Pegoraro notes in the Washington Post, this is just reproducing the broken cable model on a cellphone.

Howard Lindzon says that Verizon’s new slogan should be “We uncool your brand,” which is both hilarious and right on the money. If this is a sign of the kind of crap Google is going to do now that it owns YouTube, then that $1.6-billion in stock is going to get obliterated pretty quickly. Michael Parekh says that “incumbent businesses keep adopting the same myopic, warped business strategies that failed the last time around,” and my friend Mark Evans has some thoughts as well.


On a somewhat related note, I came across a post from David Cohen of Colorado Startups (hat tip to Leigh Himel of Oponia) about a failed startup he was involved in called iContact, which tried to create a social-networking platform for mobile phones. Here’s what he had to say in part:

The mobile industry is full of pitfalls. If you don’t have connections to cellular operators, you’ll literally need to buy them just to get a shot. It’s an old boys club and the whole industry is just trying to keep control of the closed system they’ve put together.

Open APIs are really only open to partners, revenue shares feel like hostage situations, and network aware or location based applications sit in queues waiting for “approval” which is a euphemism for “hell to freeze over.”

Yup. Sounds about right.

What does MobiTV need $100-million for?

Am I the only one who is slightly gob-smacked at the amount of money that mobile television company MobiTV has collected in its recent round of financing? (Looks like Down The Avenue shares my amazement). Just months after getting a whopping $70-million — which already seemed a little excessive — the company has been handed another $30-million. Is MobiTV really that great, or is there just so much money sloshing around in the Valley that people can’t get rid of it fast enough?

mobile tv

I expect it’s probably a little bit of both. As more than one person has noted, Web 2.0 companies (or whatever you want to call them) in many cases require a whole lot less financing than traditional technology companies, and that combined with a conspicuous lack of IPOs has left VCs with truckloads of cash backing up and effectively going to waste. And there’s no question that MobiTV is cool — or rather, still cool, since it’s been around since 1999 — although I question how big the market for watching TV on a cellphone really is.

In any case, $100-million is a gigantic pile of money. I just hope that MobiTV can find something worthwhile to do with it. Greg Sterling wonders if MobiTV is becoming the next Webvan. Let’s put it this way: If they start having rooftop parties with free drinks and performances by hot bands, look out. Rafat Ali at PaidContent is also bearish.

Canada’s regulator gets one right

Call it an occupational hazard: being a regulator, the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission”) tends to like to… well, regulate things. Satellite TV and satellite radio are good examples. Why do you have to buy a Canadian XM satellite radio box when the U.S. one receives all the U.S. and Canadian channels? Because of the CRTC. As the office in charge of making sure you listen to enough Bryan Adams and watch enough episodes of Corner Gas, that’s kind of its job.

With that in mind, it was refreshing to see the CRTC deciding not to regulate something, particularly something TV related like television on cellphones. Charles Dalfen, the chairman of the broadcast regulator, said in an interview that “It’s too early stage to want to clamp a regulatory regime on it.” He went on to suggest that since much of the content that Telus, Rogers and Bell Mobility are streaming to their phones is short clips, “At this stage, it’s not even clear what a mobile program is.”

Has someone been sneaking in to the CRTC offices and giving them reality lessons? First they decided not to try and regulate the Internet (another smart move) and now we can all watch clips of Paris Hilton’s new video or whatever on our phones, safe in the knowledge that we won’t have to watch a certain number of Avril Lavigne video clips at some point to compensate. Life is good.