The Networks Strike Back, against YouTube

I’ve been waiting for this; the day when Networks realize the value of their own content enough to host it collectively for online consumption. YouTube has been revolutionary for millions of people, realizing how accessible 5-year-old web video technology can be. Granted, we’ve been waiting for higher connection speeds and easier web development technologies to surface. I was a fan of YouTube and not for the crappy, over-compressed, self produced content that makes up the majority of what you’ll find. (I do admit I’ve, on occasion, enjoyed the latest piano-playing wonder mastering a classic Nintendo game theme.) 

What I really enjoyed on YouTube, what most of my friends IM and e-mail me about, is the latest Daily Show, SNL or Colbert Report clip. I’m sure you enjoy much of the same. It’s easy to assume that less than half of the content is network-produced, but I’m sure that the same amount of videos count for most of the views on the site. To simplify, the smallest percentage of videos probably represent the most popular ones. 

Networks see this. Comedy Central (Viacom) sued YouTube. They see the value in the popularity of their content online. Not the whole entire show, but the segments. Viewing clips online is so easy for users to do, and they want it. Clips are usually viral and why wouldn’t Viacom want to harness all that traffic to their own sites — as opposed to letting someone ‘copy’ it, over-compress it, and post it on YouTube. 

Of course, for the user, there’s a huge advantage for being able to one-stop-shop for your favorite clips. Yahoo! News and Techcrunch report today that NBC and News Corp (Fox) are joining forces to offer their OWN content online, thus competing against YouTube. Or are they? 

Let’s take a step back and look more at YouTube. Was it really intended be a showcase of network-produced content? Or was it supposed to be a place that Joe WebCam Owner could capture video of him lip-syncing to Aerosmith, showing how to throw a wiffle-ball curve or cooking an omelet. Even the early viral, self-produced videos like “Brokeback to the Future” still cherished some innocence that they were produced by the people. At some point, like the web itself, content on YouTube that for a brief moment was only user-generated has now become overrun with commercial content. So maybe it’s a good thing that YouTube seems to be forcibly reverted back to (what I think are) its roots. 

Lastly, a message to the networks: Until you get Comcast, AT&T, Tivo or Yahoo! (my employer) streaming your online content on my beautiful 50 inch HD set, DON’T EVEN THINK of ‘only’ making my favorite shows available online. (Except Studio 60, which I miss terribly; I will watch it anywhere you want me too).