December 22, 2006
Viacom Drops Out of Plans for Network-Driven YouTube Competitor

Looks like one of the gangs dropped out of the coalition.

Viacom, the parent company for our partner MTV Networks here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, has announced this week that it will not be a founding member of any collective group that provides online video content, with plans that were being formulated to create a competitor for YouTube in the distribution of official copyrighted content on the Internet.

The decision was made public through a story by Claire Atkinson and Abbey Klaassen Advertising Age on Wednesday, with Viacom sources saying that, while the network may license material to be distributed on such a channel, it will not plan to be one of the founders of an online platform of that sort.

Already, we had mentioned that ABC was not planning to be a part, as Disney is content with releasing content through its own online digital distribution service. Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek writes, "Viacom's early exit from the proposed venture represents yet another blow to the networks' YouTube copycat project."

Whitney points out that, with iFilm and Atom Entertainment, Viacom is already positioned well online, and that's not counting various video distribution systems for some of its networks, including CBS's innertube.

Whitney writes, "The remaining players in the possible venture now are NBC Universal and News. Corp. Analysts and online video experts have contended since the idea of the rival site was first floated that it would not materialize. Now, with the exit of Viacom the venture seems even less likely."

Since news first broke of this potential deal by the Wall Street Journal, debate has been stirring about the potential of this type of service. My argument echoes that of froosh at HipMojo, who questions any service that allows the networks to decide how to cut and edit the clips, as opposed to users, which takes away the power to quote, which has driven much of the use of copyrighted content on YouTube.

Last week, when I wrote about this situation, I pointed out:

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?

It looks now, though, like the coalition is falling apart before it even started...