CBS exec Les Moonves is transforming TV, and YouTube

January 13, 2007

News: The most significant development at this past week’s Consumer Electronics Show — and perhaps the most significant development in broadcast TV for the past 25 years — was the keynote address by CBS CEO Les Moonves. Why?

Moonves this week announced deals: (1) allowing users of SlingBox to “mashup”– meaning cut and splice–CBS shows at their own pleasure, and (2) airing the best 15-second YouTube videos on CBS, the first to air before this year’s Super Bowl. Moonves has clearly embraced the Web 2.0 technologies, and intends to allow users to use CBS content in their own creations. Said Moonves, “There’s no such thing as old or new media anymore. We’re just media.” (YouTube is now even thinking of having its own TV shows and channel.)  This is on top of CBS’s current deal to run parts of shows, like Letterman and NCIS, on a channel on YouTube.

And perhaps his most important admisssion: “We learned a lot watching what happened to the music industry with Napster, and we’d like to avoid those mistakes.” (More)

Analysis: I don’t like making predictions, but a decade from now we may look back at this decision by CBS as the defining moment for a huge transformation in broadcast TV, which propelled it into a completely different model of providing content to users–from a couch potato model to the mashup model. Web 3.0, here we come.  If you want to create a video for the CBS promotion on Super Bowl Sunday, go here.


LA Times op-ed comparing YouTube + MySpace to Napster

November 27, 2006

News:  LA Times editorial writer Jon Haley has an op-ed piece on Sunday, comparing and contrasting YouTube and MySpace to Napster.  Although Haley suggests that YouTube and MySpace are different from Napster because they are websites and have deeper pockets, they could end up like Napster:  “The best result would be for Universal and its entertainment brethren to work out a way with MySpace and YouTube to turn people’s enthusiasm for posting songs and clips into a robust revenue stream — assuming that the sites can gin up enough money to make everybody happy. In another parallel with the original Napster, MySpace and YouTube haven’t found a way yet to generate much revenue from advertisers or users. And the longer that remains true, the greater the chance that the companies will meet the same fate.”

Analysis:  It’s now banal to compare YouTube to Napster.  Mark Cuban did it last month, and I’ve offered all my reasons why I believe he was wrong in all these posts here.  So far, I have to say that my position has proven more accurate, given YouTube’s continued, growing business. 

I think LA Times writer Jon Haley is barking up the wrong tree when he says that YouTube and MySpace may be different from Napster because they are websites (as if Napster wasn’t) and they have deep pockets.  Napster was a website, too; it invoked the DMCA safe harbor as well but was shut down before it even had a chance to take that defense to trial (although it’s not clear it had a DMCA policy in place, anyways).  Also, the fact that YouTube and MySpace have deep (parent) pockets could make it more attractive, not less so, for copyright lawsuits. 

What Haley is missing (and Cuban as well) is that a growing segment of big corporate America — Cingular, CBS, NBC, Warner Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG — sees YouTube as a legitimate business, and a business that can also serve their interests.  That’s a key difference betwen Napster and YouTube.  YouTube is changing the way corporate copyright holders think about enforcing their copyrights.  Here’s what CBS exec David Poltrack stated last week, “When you have something the public really wants, the economic value in that is to come up with a way to satisfy the rights holders and serve the consumers. . .  If they’re [consumers] going to steal it, give it to them anyway.” 

Of course, I don’t want to overstate the change in the view of copyright holders, or understate the risk of copyright liability that YouTube or MySpace faces.  Copyrights still exist, and sometimes (but not always) they give rise to lawsuits.  Universal Music is suing MySpace, but not YouTube.  The DMCA provides a potential safe harbor for YouTube and MySpace, but, if litigated, the issue will be contested.  By the same token, businesses and corporate copyright holders probably understand, more today than they did before, that shutting down Napster was a Pyrrhic victory, that propagated infringement across decentralized, harder-to-detect sites.  In the end, the music, movie, and television industries may need a central site like YouTube to prosper just as much as YouTube needs them. 

UPDATE:  Here’s more evidence to support my theory.  Major media corporations are all searching for the “next YouTube.”  No one said that about Napster, at least not in a good way.

What Mark Cuban doesn’t get, Part 2: music studios buy into YouTube

October 20, 2006

News: NYT’s writers Andrew Sorkin and Jeff Leeds have detailed more information about the 3 majors deals YouTube struck with the recording studios Universal, Sony BMG, and Warner Music on the same day as the Google deal.  In exchange for allowing their music to be used by YouTube users, the recording studios each received a small stake in YouTube.  According to the NYT reporters, “Indeed, people involved in the discussions said that the music companies rushed to complete the deal ahead of the YouTube deal, in part so that it could benefit in the jump in YouTube’s value.”

Analysis:  I don’t want to sound like a broken record (pun intended), but Mark Cuban’s prediction that YouTube will suffer the same copyright demise as Napster has proven to be wrong, again and again.  When 3 of the 4 major recording studios have bought a stake in YouTube, that’s a powerful sign of how those music copyright holders view the legitimate business potential of YouTube. 

Related post

Business + Web 2.0: What Mark Cuban doesn’t get

Universal Music agrees to deal with YouTube, ending threat of copyright lawsuit