March 17, 2007
CBS Uses YouTube for March Madness Cross-Platform Distribution, but Users Angered at Lack of Grabability

My cousin Steven, who I recently mentioned clued me in on the I Hate Steven Singer campaign, is a basketball fanatic, so I was worried about him on his trip home recently DURING March Madness. After all, my soap opera is preempted, so it's hard to forget that March is NCAA season.

But CBS has forged a new deal to make sure the 64-team tournament is even more ubiquitous this year, with video footage appearing on YouTube, with only a very short delay. The site, co-branded by YouTube, CbS SportsLine, NCAA Sports, CSTV, and Pontiac, seems to have driven significant traffic so far, as the tournament begins. The channel is certainly not going to replace CBS coverage of the games, but the deal has provided yet another way for viewers to keep up with the games in the most convenient way, as well as to review highlight clips on-demand.

Not surprisingly, the blogosphere points to the irony of Viacom's suing YouTube while CBS is finding effective and profitable ways to work with the video sharing site. David A. Utter with WebProNews points out that the first CBS March Madness clip on YouTube prominently displays UPS advertising and indicates the potential for major profit for the network and YouTube as well. Utter says, "Why Viacom misses the potential of YouTube while their former brethren at CBS embrace it would be a question we would like to see Viacom answer if their YouTube/Google lawsuit ever comes to trial."

Pete Cashmore with Mashable points out that CBS Interactive President Quincy Smith made some strong allusions to the differences between the CBS approach and that of some other networks, calling plans for a network version of a YouTube rival "naive" and saying that such a product would "have three people hsow up to enjoy some incredibly great content." See more former posts about such plans back in December here and here. See my post about the hiring of Quincy Smith back in November here

But, as I pointed out recently, MTVN's approach seems to be incorporating some of the most powerful aspects of YouTube, even as Viacom sues Google.

As Tim Gray with E-Commerce News points out, "The deal also allows for game clips to be uploaded to the site in near-real-time, while users can comment on the clips, rate and recommend them, and post their own video responses, according to YouTube."

Gray's coverage includes some quotes from Forrester's James McQuivey, who point out that this is a step forward for networks to find ways to work with YouTube as a space people already go to share video in order to create community-building around the March Madnes clips, but that it is unsure whether this will lead to more substantial CBS deals with YouTube in the future or not. Earlier this month, BBC finalized a deal with YouTube.

Wendy Davis with MediaPost points out that the YouTube deal solved a major logistical problem with CBS as well, since they had decided last week that their own site would only be able to handle 300,000 simultaneous viewers, meaning that the overflow could be handled by the YouTube channel.

However, not everyone is overjoyed with the "grabability" of the CBS clips. The folks at Web Junk.TV cleverly insert a video of Duke's shocking loss they are discussing, only to point out that the link doesn't work. They claim that, like Duke, "YouTube is a big loser also." They go on to explain, "when I went to embed video of this shocking Duke loss, all the EMZBED CODES WERE DISABLED...It appears alternatives are already being sought out."

So, while some commentators on the blogosphere praise CBS for realizing what Viacom doesn't, I think it's just as fair to point out that MTVN's recent rhetoric on the importance of the grabability of clips proves that maybe CBS doesn't get it sometimes, either. YouTube is not just another platform to distribute one's product on. The reason people like YouTube is because it is ubiquitous and social. It allows you to share content, to quote and commentate and grab and embed in ways that facilitates viral media sharing and consumption. CBS obviously gets that a little bit, by striking the deal with YouTube in the first place. But the lack of embed-ability also questions how deep that understanding goes.