Studios, MySpace take on YouTube - one more chance to 'get it'
In the aftermath of Viacom's $1 billion suit against Google, News Corp. and NBC Universal announced plans to build their own online video site to compete with Google's YouTube. In a sign of somewhat getting it, the plan includes distribution deals with Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL, as well as MySpace, the LA Times reports.
Naturally the odds of this working are weak, mostly because the studios will screw it up by trying to control it too much. But the participation of MySpace makes it more likely that something will stick. Making videos available on Yahoo, etc., though is less than enthralling. This will be just one more Yahoo licensing deal for which they will create some boring portal.
The thing about net video is that it is part and parcel of the texture of the blogosphere. It is YT's sharing and embedding features that make it possible not merely to point to a specific video but to include it in your own work, in the moral equivalent of <blockquote>. The key thing the content owners should understand is that "The Daily Show" gets uploaded to YouTube not so that people can avoid paying cable bills but because they want to tell their friends (broadly defined) about, say, Jon's Net Neutrality segment.
We say that blogging is a conversation. Video is part of the conversation. When someone does something great, or witty or stupid, we want to be able to talk about it and to show it. We've always talked about the Net as the place where you don't have to believe what the newspaper reports because, here is the source file - look at it yourself.
The other important thing is Larry Lessig's point that people want to use digital media - other people's creations - as the building blocks of their (post-modern) creations. They want to quote and reference, with a knowing wink. (See Vote Different.)
YouTube and social networking enables all these things. It's really not about stealing the content in the Napster way. This stuff is going onto YouTube because people want it out there, want to embed it, want to talk about it.
So it's a positive step that studios want to get their stuff out there. I really don't care if they do it on YouTube, some other service, or their own. If they want to control it, monetize it, brand it, I don't care (as long as you don't have to watch 100 seconds of ads before you get to the clip), so long as they offer the same social networking/blogging aspects that YT does. So long as they are letting people do what they want with the stuff, rather than getting in our way, the new project will do just fine.
If not, it will be just one more Hollywood flop.