Internet, Video

Quick Thoughts about YouTube, Viacom, and NBC

Commentary, analysis and posts are flying around the ether the past week in the wake of Viacom’s take-down demands to YouTube, and in the past day, NBC’s threatening words directed at YouTube.

Oddly, many bloggers are simply doing Google’s bidding by simplistically portraying NBC and Viacom as VERY BAD and Google/YouTube as VERY GOOD . When, in fact, this is really a pure and naked power struggle between a rising media behemoth (GOOG) and two old media empires whose golden years are, most likely, behind them (Viacom, NBC).

Many in the commentariat seem to think that the best possible outcome for us is to have all video available on YouTube. And that media companies are idiots for not recognizing YouTube as just a nice, wonderful free promotional engine for video programming. (“Damned fools”, cried one prominent blogger in exasperation).

It all sounds so seductive and alluring if you think about it for only a second; but if you think about it longer than that, it’s not at all clear to me that having all the video on Google (it’s not YouTube, it’s Google), so that it consolidates its position as the dominant place to search for AND watch video, will ultimately benefit us the people.

Google has been perceived as a benign and even helpful power in the search space because their search results bring people to your site. Not true with YouTube. You find the video on YouTube, you watch the video on YouTube.

The declining media powers know that if all their content is available on YouTube — and everyone else’s, too — YouTube will be in an unbelievable position of power and leverage, as we’ve discussed before.
So I have a simple way of framing the choice. Which of these two options is better:

1. All the video we want available on one site, YouTube, owned and controlled by Google?

2. All the video video we want available on millions of sites, owned and controlled by hundreds of thousands of entities?

I think the answer is pretty straightforward.

The complaint with NBC and Viacom shouldn’t be that they’re forcing YouTube to take down their content, but that they aren’t doing more to make more (or all) of their video available online, for free.

And in the end, as we’ve said before on this blog, we think that the trend will be towards distributed, decentralized availability of video, and ultimatley there will be hundreds of thousands or even millions sites that provide video that is “shareable” — probably using flash, probably with an embed code. Why would we expect video, after all, to be any different than other media types on the web?

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