A very interesting article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal called TV Industry Clouds Google's Video Vision. It outlined the struggle Google is having with the legal content owners like Viacom and CBS in cutting deals to have their content posted on YouTube. What surprises me the most is that Google couldn't cut a deal with CBS when only a few months back the two were bragging about the views that CBS' videos were receiving and the impact on their offline viewership. I guess that press release was all about hype or making the business development managers on both sides look good for end of year accomplishments.
I've written numerous times in the past in support of the content owners because they paid for the talent, writing, productions, and editing and they should be able to capture as much share of the advertising revenue as possible. Does that put me against all the other promoters of Web 2.0 and the community? Well a little, but don't forget unlike some of those experts I've actually cut million dollar business development deals both buying content and offering content. At the end of the day, it belongs to the content owners, plain and simple. If you wrote a book, you'd like to get paid right? You should also be able to take what price you want for your content.
According to the article, 13 out of the top 20 videos on YouTube for the month ending 2/15 were professionally produced. What does that tell you? The companies that produced the content should be reimbursed for the viewing. Sure you can make the argument that YouTube should be compensated for having the audience, but then this brings up a chicken or the egg theory. Only this time, the chicken is probably more responsible for making the content egg.
Of course I have no idea what is happening behind the scenes, but to me Google looks like the bad guy here; however, Google's bad press on this is being generated by the same companies they are negotiating with. Whether you think the content owners are purposely trying to make Google look bad in the press, it doesn't matter because the reporters themselves would naturally have their bias built in.
Google needs the content more than the content owners need Google. Why? Good content will be found on the web, even if it is a little harder to find it. People will Digg them and leave comments on Digg or comments and trails to the videos. Sure it might not be as much fun (notice Digg is getting the videos from YouTube), but people will surf to find the content.
I for one hope Google can cut the deals because it will be better to house them on YouTube. And, please stop giving the community argument. This is way beyond that. Ever since Google bought YouTube, this is now about making as much advertising money as possible. That's it (period). If Google can't cut deal, than YouTube may just turn out to be what the description at the top of the page says - "Broadcast Yourself", but it will probably be worth a lot less as people go elsewhere. After all, as Mark Cuban wrote, online videos are the snack while TV is the meal; people will move to where the food is.
P.S. I saw this post over at the Internet Outsider: Dvorak on Viacom: Old Media Boneheads and while at first glance it seems reasonable, however the clips are not free marketing - they are the best of a show as decided by the users with the rest removed so you DO NOT have to watch the rest of the show. You don't have to sit through the whole show to see the 10 minutes that you want - taking revenue opportunities away from the content owners and putting it with YouTube.