It sounds like something out of The Godfather. Three families who have long competed, shot at each other, and undercut each other's businesses--sometimes even using questionable tactics--all think about banding together when a new threat comes into the town. They may have always despised each other because they wanted complete control, but the last thing any of them want is a new guy on the block, especially one that doesn't play by their rules.
So you set up a meeting and start thinking about doing the impossible--working together to run that new power off. This new ring has the gall to do the things you never imagined you could get away with.
Okay, so News Corp, Viacom, and NBC Universal has never sold drugs to children (although I'm expecting some snide remarks about alcohol ads from the left-wingers out there or else some talk about depicting of drug use on television from some conservatives right now to try and contradict that), but this new plan from these three powerhouses sounds reminiscent of those old-school cross-gang meetings depicted in the films when it comes to their pervasive new threat: YouTube.
Is the enemy of my enemy my enemy or my friend?
These networks can't tell. Because they know YouTube has power, they are willing to work with them, to a degree. But how much is too much?
The corporate owners of Fox, NBC, and CBS have started talking about plans to put together an online distribution system for video that would be a rival for YouTube in which they can control the dissimination of their own content.
The news broke from Julia Angwin and Matthew Karnitschnig at The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, although there is no chance of this developing into an actual available product for some time. The idea, though, is to create a common place for video content from the families of all these networks that could be viewed through a video player that could play content from across the Web.
Angwin and Karnitschnig emphasize that this product would not be tied in with MySpace because the other networks would not want their content on a News Corp. site, but would rather be a co-creation of the three conglomerates.
Disney/ABC is not involved, primarily because they have launched their own unique product to allow people to watch their shows on the ABC Web site, as I wrote about back in September.
As Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek writes in response to the WSJ story, "The networks are considering such a venture because of the success of YouTube, which has been driven in part by the large number of videos on its site that are unauthorized copies or clips of TV shows. The popularity of such clips has led the media companies to believe that consumers would be interested in a legitimate rival to YouTube, the story said."
This option exists alongside plans to continue working with YouTube. I wrote about the deals between Google and the major networks earlier this month, quoting BusinessWeek's Jon Fine as talking about "the YouTube version of the chicken-egg conundrum: Which party needs the other more?" Obviously, with this deal, the networks are hoping they won't need YouTube nearly as much in the long run.
As the WSJ story points out, "the latest round of talks could still founder. All the media companies are weighing attractive offers from Google to pay them licensing fees for their videos to play on YouTube. Google has offered to pay fees of as much as $140 million over three years to Fox, according to a person with knowledge of the offer. So far, NBC and CBS have struck deals to air some content on YouTube. NBC has said it was in talks with YouTube about reaching another unspecified content deal."
The reaction across the blogosphere has been interesting. Maggie Fox with the SocialMediaGroup predicts "somebody's going to lose a whole lot of money over this one." Mike Sachoff at WebProNews writes, "If the major networks want to succeed by working together to create a viable site and compete with YouTube than they would do well to keep in mind that users are looking for a variety of choices when it comes to content." And poster froosh at HipMojowrites that the problems with this plan include turf battles, deportalization, and it goes against the power of "user-appropriated content" because the networks will choose what to clip, as opposed to YouTube, in which people clip out segments they find interesting. Perhaps most interesting from froosh, however, is his point that this will not work because it is "a greed and envy driven initiative."