It's Already Too Late For YouTube Competitors

Viacom, News Corp, NBC Universal and maybe CBS are this close to announcing that they will compete with YouTube. They want to get into the distribution business that YouTube -- now Google -- is in. There are many problems with this grand plan not the least of which is can these traditional media rivals get along? There are big egos and longtime rivalries here. What has YouTube wrought? Apparently, it has scared these old media competitors into working together. I'm not betting that this coalition will last long if it ever launches.

There are lots of concerns:
  • True, they own a lot of content that can be re-purposed on their version of "YouTube", but with the intention of encouraging viewers to contribute their own videos, what about this idea is different from YouTube? They're the second one in with an idea that sounds too much like the first one in.
  • The site would be advertiser supported. It has yet to be established that YouTube will work as an advertiser supported venture. Google hopes so after spending $1.6 billion for YouTube, but we'll see.
  • This consortium includes parties with diverse interests. News Corp owns MySpace and Fox Television. Viacom owns MTV. CBS is already negotiating with Google and has a separate deal in the works to sell unsold radio inventory to Google. In other words, there are conflicts.
  • YouTube has an early jump on this potential venture with content deals involving Warner Records, SonyBMG and Universal and a licensing deal with CBS. Not terminal, but being first counts for something.
It's easy to understand why old line media companies want to compete with Google even if Google's YouTube is untested as a moneymaker. Just the thought of such a huge revenue stream has these companies thinking the impossible -- working together. Yet, this development is fascinating to watch as it unfolds. It shows how desperately traditional media companies want to get into Internet distribution. And they know very little about the generation that made YouTube possible in less than two years from inception and without an ounce of promotion other than viral word of mouth. They know little about social networking and while they are trying to understand, they have little fear of the best reason for not competing with YouTube. The YouTube audience is fickle. What's hot today, won't be tomorrow. And that applies to YouTube, MySpace, Facebook -- even iPods and smart phones.

Perhaps traditional media companies should concentrate less on trying to get into the Internet business and more on creating the content that won them success in the first place.