Thursday, March 22, 2007

NBC, News Corp. build BoobTube

posted by Andy Leff
File this under 'well-known secrets': News Corp. and NBC Universal have announced that they're joining forces to create a YouTube rival.

The specter of this news has floated around since early summer, with some media mavens speculating that the companies would buy Metacafe.

I said it then, and I'll say it now: There is no way this venture will kill YouTube. YouTube's allure lies in the fact that the user community provides the content, not that corporations jam it down their throats.

Like Mark Cuban said when Google first acquired the video site, only a moron would buy YouTube for over a billion dollars. Conversely, only a moron would try to destroy YouTube with a business plan that has nothing to do with the real reasons behind the site's popularity.

Lay your bets down now ... I'm predicting that user-generated video will not even be offered on this self-styled 'YouTube Killer', because that would take more control out of big media’s hands.

That's why this deal is such a pathetic act of desperation. News Corp. and NBC are scared to death that they're losing hold of the media (which they are), trying to win it back (which they're not), and never realizing that their heyday might be gone for good.

I am also dumbfounded by News Corp.'s inexplicable involvement in this scheme. They already control MySpace -- the 2nd largest video-content sharing site on the planet behind 'GooTube' -- yet they risk cannibalizing their own product with another video site.

It begs the question -- how much legitimate, thoughtful planning actually supported this decision? I wonder if these suits really know how much money it takes to run a YouTube. Just crunch the numbers for the servers and bandwidth costs, and see if your checkbook doesn't start crumbling.

News Corp. and NBC will discover soon enough that running their own shop will be more expensive than striking a deal with YouTube, and mooching off their IT infrastructure. Enter the ultimate solution: a contract with YouTube to legally show video clips. This would dramatically increase big media's reach, at relatively low cost, and without the long ramp-up time of a new site.

But that's as likely to happen as pigs flitting past my second-story window. Instead, the media giants will continue their Quixotic march, and further damage their reach and drain their resources.

It's a shame, really. All they have to do is recognize the change of guard from traditional media to user-generated content, and learn to play nice with their new buddies. Only then can they credibly access the online community, and capture the millions of potential new viewers that await them there.

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