A little more than a week ago, AOL, MSN, and Yahoo announced they would distribute video content for a joint venture involving NBC Universal and News Corp. Beginning this summer, this new network will feature movies and full-length programming. Of course, it will be ad-supported, copy protected, and seemingly, no more than an alternative to regular television programming.
While the higher-ups in all of these organizations are reluctant to say this is in response to YouTube, it is clear that if YouTube weren’t so wildly popular, this venture would likely not take place, or at least not on this scale.
What effect will this have on YouTube? Likely none. Here’s why I say that.
YouTube’s interactivity is what makes it so popular. Users can upload their own content, download other’s content, and genuinely share. It’s a two-way street. A community. YouTube is certainly not unique in this respect. Indeed, the whole Web 2.0 movement and social networks thrive on this concept of interactivity. Other large corporations have tried to implement social features into their own corporate web sites, and failed largely because they tried too hard to control it.
But the issue of control is just one strike against the NBC Universal / News Corp venture. It’s a one way street. No way around it. They are broadcasting, creating another “MeTube,” if you will.
The other issue is that I’m not so sure the majority of people who make YouTube so popular really care about slickly produced studio programming. I think there is an inherent voyeuristic charm that comes from watching lo-fi video clips of other people’s lives, whether they are re-enacting a fight scene from “Enter the Dragon” in their backyards, lip-synching to Maroon 5, or creating little episodes of their own home-spun shows.
The random copyrighted items that show up on YouTube seem to be more collateral content than the driving force.
Will NBC Universal/News Corp have an impact? Perhaps. If someone misses an episode of their favorite prime-time NBC show, they can catch it online. And, to be sure, there will be enough money behind the venture to keep it going while fine-tuning for best results. In the end, however, I can’t see it competing with YouTube at all. I simply don’t believe they address the same demographics at all.