TV networks should take Google’s money

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.

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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.

Update:

As Rafat Ali mentions at PaidContent, Jon Fine at Business Week was the first to mention this possibility.

It should be Yahoo? instead of Yahoo!

Maybe if I were working at Yahoo, I would be all fired up by Terry Semel’s carefully calculated “Hey, let’s get all fired up” speech, which Jonathan Strauss has helpfully transcribed on his Yahoo blog. Terry says the media are “full of shit,” and that they all dissed Yahoo five years ago and now they’re dissing it again, but it won’t stop the company, etc., etc. All his speech needed was the soundtrack from the climactic scene in Saving Private Ryan.

It could be just me, but I don’t think Terry Semel makes a very good General Patton, or whoever he was trying to channel in his little tirade. He looks like the kind of guy who wouldn’t say shit if his mouth was full of it — or maybe if someone on the corporate messaging team told him it would make him look like a take-charge kind of guy. Nice try, Terry. I hope for your sake it makes your employees forget how far down all their stock options have sunk.

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And Terry “The Tiger” doesn’t do much better in the video clip from CNBC that Mike Arrington has posted over at TechCrunch, in which he tries to deny the rumours of layoffs while giving himself a loophole big enough to drive a tractor-trailer through. As several commenters have pointed out, all Semel denies is that there will be 15 to 20 per cent layoffs, not that there will be any layoffs at all. As for the five years ago comparison, Dave “500 hats” McClure notes on Om’s blog post that

The main difference between then & now is that everybody got hit hard in 2000 / 2001, and everyone had to recover at the same time with equivalent challenges.

This time around, lots of companies appear to be kicking ass — most notably Google — but Yahoo is struggling to keep their stock price afloat while they squander #1 position in users & page views.

No one gets blamed for drowning in a typhoon. but if you can’t swim when the sun is shining that’s a different story.

If things don’t start turning around at Yahoo, not only will they have to take away the exclamation mark, but I have a feeling Terry might be saying shit a few more times — and he might even mean it.

TV 2.0 — slouching towards Bethlehem

Two announcements that indicate the process of evolution in the TV 2.0 business is really picking up a head of steam: Brightcove — which until recently was like the wizard behind the curtains, powering online TV ventures such as the recently announced music video deal with Warner Music — remakes itself with a consumer-facing site and service that plans to compensate users for video content, and Metacafe announces its “producer awards” feature, which pays video uploaders $5 for every 1,000 views their video gets above the 20,000 mark.

Plenty of people wondering what this means for GooTube, of course, now that Google has paid $1.6-billion out of petty cash for the thing — but it’s also worth wondering how the folks over at Revver are feeling, since they more or less pioneered the whole “pay the users” video thing. Thanks to Revver, the guys at Eepybird.com who made the Diet Coke-Mentos video got $30,000 or so for all the views that their clip got (Revver pays creators 50 per cent of the ad revenue they get, and you can also get paid based on how many places the video is embedded).

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As Matt Marshall explains over at VentureBeat, Metacafe not only pays producers of video, it also tries to filter out the chaff by submitting videos to a group of reviewers who give it the thumbs up or down before it hits the site, adding a kind of Digg-style (or American Idol-style) voting aspect to it. And then there’s Brightcove, which will give content owners 50 per cent of the revenue from ads, or the ability to offer paid downloads of their content, for which they get 70 per cent.

In a sense, YouTube and its ilk are coming at the market from the opposite end of things as Brightcove: they started with videos of kittens and skateboarders hurting themselves and so on, and are now trying to become more mainstream and legitimate, while Brightcove started as the corporate stooge who works with the networks and now wants to layer some popular, viral video on top of all that. Who will win? The betting window is now open.

Update:

Marshall at TechCrunch notes that Google also tweaked its video service today, by adding a “sponsored” video category aimed at major TV production outfits (those with at least 1,000 hours of video). The new feature launched with a Coke video with none other than the Eepybird Mentos guys.