Viacom Reportedly Pulls Out of Would-be YouTube Rival

December 19, 2006

Broadcasting and Cable is reporting that Viacom has pulled out of the widely discussed talks between a number of major media companies to create what’s being called a would-be YouTube killer. Viacom had been working with NBC Universal, News Corp. and CBS on creating one giant online video site, the future of which now falls into question.

Many people have contended that large mainstream media companies could never create the kind of vibrant community that grew up around YouTube in its early days. It’s hard to imagine what a site run jointly by all of those media companies would look like. Several of their many properties are in direct competition, for example. Collaboration on such a scale, interfacing with user generated content, sounds like an unbelievably complicated task – even if it were judged legally acceptable. It reminds me of the music world’s hydra in gestation, MusicForAmerica, a contest site run by Epic Records, Universal Music Group, EMI and ClearChannel.

Everyone wants a piece of the user generated action. It’s incredible what a force YouTube grew to be so quickly. The potential it and related services hold for the future is clearly an even bigger threat to old style media.


Welcome, Marshall!

December 11, 2006

Today is Marshall Kirkpatrick’s first day at SplashCast! 

Just a few days ago Marshall was writing for TechCrunch.  Today he is our Director of Content.  Indeed, this past week has been an especially busy one for us.

We are absolutely delighted to have one of the most talented, resourceful, and influential bloggers spearhead our ambitious agenda for covering the wild, wild west of  user-generated content (see yesterday’s New York Times article on UGC).  Marshall will not only be the voice of SplashCast, he will act as executive producer, folding in the best writers, podcasters, and vloggers in our industry.  We have big ideas for “SplashCast Media”, and can’t wait to integrate these ideas into the SplashCast syndication network for all your publishing desires (public beta coming soon, I promise!). 

I hope you will join me in giving Marshall the warmest of welcomes.

Welcome aboard, Marshall! 


Google Completes YouTube Deal

November 13, 2006

Google completed its acquisition of YouTube today. TechCrunch reports that the final price included $15 million in cash. Based on the  stock price at the end of closing today, the deal is worth 1.775 billion to YouTube’s shareholders.

Now, what’s next? Will Google be more restrictive? And if they do become more strict about YouTube uploading policies, will it drive away its core users?

And then there is all that litigation. I’d say that by no means does this mean that Google has the video sharing space sewn up.

On another front, Beet.tv has an interview with Hunter Walk, “a key executive at Google Video who had previously run Google’s AdSense. ” Walk says: “Part of the goal is to provide monetization strategies to content providers of all sizes.” Good insights. Worth watching.

John Battelle wonders: “What’s Up with Google, Video, and Ads?”

He writes:

This is a major question, and it’s unanswered. Why, if I had nothing but time, I’d be digging into this, and deeply. The amount of rumors, speculation, and backstory that’s crossed my desk – involving Hollywood agents, rising videoblogging stars, quarantined inventory on major tech sites, and the like – is enough to fuel at least a front page NYT story.


Democratizing Airwaves with User-Generated TV Channels

November 3, 2006

I think Michael Arrington at Techcrunch is partially correct in his assertion that the convergence of TV across all devices (traditional TV, PCs, and mobile devices) is the real win  in the IPTV race.  But I think he is missing the bigger story.

We believe the promise of IPTV is not to create a  more convenient television experience, it is to completely redefine what television is.  IPTV can finally “democratize the airwaves” by leveling the play-field between the established media networks and user-generated channels.  

Services like SplashCast will enable anyone to build their own media channel, broadcasting content they’ve either created or aggregated.  As I stated in a previous post, you will be able to flip between NBC Nightly News, the Techcrunch channel (to watch their daily vodcast), the Justin Timberlake channel (to get footage of him eating breakfast at IHOP — paid for by IHOP), the Barack Obama channel (to get the latest scoop on his presidential ambitions), and your brother’s channel (where your 4-year-old nephew is the star).


YouTube And The Desire For Abundance

November 2, 2006

Mark Cuban posted an email from the pho list this week that tells quite a story about the inside dealings between Google, YouTube and the media companies who have been seeking compensation for copyright infringement. I am on the pho list. The insights of this group of people have provided me with such valuable perspectives on the changing media culture. This posting was one I read with amazement as it illuminates the feverish and almost reactionary climate that seems to be engrossing the media world as it deals with the almost facile ability of people to post media of their choosing, be it their own or third party copyrighted material.

Acquisitions are complex but reading this email, you quickly realize how the people shaping a deal can become so zealous that in hindsight they almost posseses a disregard for the implications of their actions.

Most striking is how critical Google views abundancy and what tactics are being employed to satisfy the media companies so that abundancy may be maintained. For without abundancy, YouTube is only an illusion of a great video sharing network that can only feed so many before the ingredients become scarce or of little quality.

Scarcity is not a problem that YouTube currently faces. An abundance of media is what drives the video sharing site. It’s this abundance that matters most to YouTube. People go to YouTube for what it offers them. Authentic takes on our culture, clips of favorite TV shows and the widest selection of lip syncing videos ever assembled in one place.

But YouTube could not have lasted by itself. And I’m not so sure how it will sustain itself under Google if the copyright owners get impatient and demand more take downs and an ever increasing revenue stream for the copyrighted material that YouTube users post. But if nothing else, it is looking if the media companies are starting to see a relationship, if only an abstract one, between what is posted on YouTube and the image of their media empires. Case in point, this week’s decision by YouTube to take down Comedy Central videos only to be followed by Viacom’s subsequent permission to allow the postings. The videos are now back up and negotiations have commenced.

The media companies have maintained their tremendous strength in large part because of scarcity. That is all changing as the laws of the Internet dictate media abundance. Chris Anderson presented at Pop! Tech recently, discussing the economy of abundance and its effects on us all.

But how long will the media companies keep a hands off approach to YouTube and what will it cost Google to keep them at bay so the search company may maintain the laws of abundance?

If the laissez-faire approach by the media companies continues, like what we are seeing with Viacom, then Google may be able to maintain YouTube’s lead in the video sharing space. But if the tide turns the other way, then YouTube may falter, its model only an illusion.

And that’s why the events that the email details may prove so true in the long run. Google’s desire for abundance appears to have shaped its dealings with the major copyright owners. But desire can be very dangerous and lead to all sorts of unexpected consequences.

As the email to the pho list points out, the media companies received a susbtantial sum of money as part of the YouTube deal, which they are reportedly counting as an investment, meaning they would not have to compensate artists for the windfall. From the pho email:

The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the talent (musicians and actors)? If monies were received as part of a license to Youtube then they would contractually obligated to share a substantial portion of the proceeds with others. For example most record label contracts call for artists to get 50% of all license deals. It was decided the media companies would receive an equity position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them. This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position. A few savvy agents might complain about receiving nothing and get a token amount, but most will be unaware of what transpired.

In return, Google is reported to have made a deal with the media companies that shows why abundance is so critical to YouTube’s continued strength. Google could not strip the site of copyrighted material. If Google did that, the site would be a skeleton of its former self. People would quickly notice the scarcity, leaving in droves. According to the pho email, Google realized that they needed the media companies to essentially look the other way so the abundance of user generated media would continue to proliferate on the YouTube network:

The first request was a simple one and that was an agreement to look the other way for the next 6 months or so while copyright infringement continues to flourish. This standstill is cloaked in language about building tools to help manage the content and track royalties, some of which is true but also G knows that every day they can operate in the shadows of copyright law is another day that Youtube can grow. It should be noted that Google video is a capable Youtube competitor with the ONE big difference being a much more sincere effort to not post unauthorized works – and Google fully appreciates what a difference that makes. So you can continue to find movie clips, tv show segments and just about every music video on Youtube today.

And now, here is where I question if the desire for traffic and abundance trumped any rationale thinking. According to the pho list email, Google had one more request for the copyright owners:

The second request was to pile some lawsuits on competitors to slow them down and lock in Youtube’s position. As Google looked at it they bought a 6 month exclusive on widespread video copyright infringement. Universal obliged and sued two capable Youtube clones Bolt and Grouper. This has several effects. First, it puts enormous pressure on all the other video sites to clamp down on the laissez-faire content posting that is prevalent. If Google is agreeing to remove unauthorized content they want the rest of the industry doing the same thing. Secondly it shuts off the flow of venture capital investments into video firms. Without capital these firms can’t build the data centers and pay for the bandwidth required for these upside down businesses.

The desire for abundance is overwhelming for video sharing sites. It is the abundance that fuels their growth. But desire can be a dangerous thing. We’ll see how dangerous it really is as events unfold in the ever changing relationship between the media giants, Google and the people that make these social networks such fascinating places to explore.


IPTV Meets User-Generated Channels

November 1, 2006

Om Malik writes about the coming of IPTV (digital television over your Internet connection).  Not surprisingly, Europe and Asia are way ahead of the US in early adoption. 

Bluewin TV, one of the new IPTV services out of Switzerland, is boasting 100 TV channels and 70 radio stations.   

Uh… so what? 

The promise of IPTV is not to create a better television experience, it is to completely redefine what television is.  TiVo took this part way, but not far enough.  IPTV will pick up where TiVo has negligently left off. 

That is, we demand that IPTV services include all of the social features we’ve become accustomed to in the MySpace / YouTube world.  That is: collaborative filtering, user commenting, ratings, flagging,  content sharing, bookmark sharing, etc. 

But most importantly, IPTV holds the promise of truly democratizing the “airwaves” by opening the network up to user-generated channels.

SplashCast will enable anyone to build their own media channel, broadcasting content they’ve either created or aggregated to any web site on the web.  In the not-so-distant future, these user-generated and user-programmed channels will be available in your living room.  You’ll be able to flip between NBC Nightly News, the Om Malik channel (to watch his latest vodcast), the Justin Timberlake channel (to get footage of him eating breakfast IHOP — paid for by IHOP), the Barack Obama channel (to get the latest scoop on his presidential ambitions), and your brother’s channel (where your 4-year-old nephew is the star).

Coming soon


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