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Between cleaning out my inbox, posting on the blog, and reporting for the magazine, it is no surprise that I missed out watching the India-Pakistan cricket series almost entirely. For those who don’t know its like Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees, except bigger. Worried, […]

Between cleaning out my inbox, posting on the blog, and reporting for the magazine, it is no surprise that I missed out watching the India-Pakistan cricket series almost entirely. For those who don’t know its like Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees, except bigger. Worried, that I missed on the games, I asked Wasim, the wonderful host at Punjab Kebab House in Tandoor-loin district of San Francisco, if he had any tapes.

His response – why don’t you watch the highlights on the Internet. He pointed me to You Tube. Quite amazing, because I found properly tagged videos of the copyright broadcasts, perfectly packaged for expat viewing. First reaction to Wasim’s recommendation: wow, You Tube is as big as Napster. In fact, much bigger, thanks to broadband penetration. Second reaction… eewww! It is like Napster.

It reminded me of my post from last month – Google, You Tube and Dark Side of Online Video. I had raised concerns about this then, and only this past week, I saw that NBC was issuing a cease and desist to You Tube over a SNL clip. You Tube (and Google) can hide behind DMCA to some extent, but in the end as one commenter on my previous post had said – this is no different than Napster. Listings (and hosting) of other people’s content can and will always get you in trouble.

Stewart Butterfield in response to my previous post had pointed out that SNL clip was one of the biggest hits on You Tube, and perhaps “it’s not in NBC’s interest to protest at this point: it probably helps drive interest in SNL, YouTube’s content is not really being monetized now, and NBC isn’t offering any alternative. But when either of those last two factors change, things could get harder.”

Well, he proved to be a sooth sayer, and things did get harder. Now that SNL clips are being sold on iTunes for $1.99, NBC stands to lose money, which means a C&D. Unlike Napster, here is a direct correlation in lost sales. (India-Pakistan series in total would have cost me about $150.) NBC’s actions sparked off a healthy discussion, though makes me wonder why we had to wait for New York Times to write about this before causing a commotion. Nevermind… I believe that the growing popularity of You Tube (and other online video sites… about 95 in total as per Mary Hodder of Dabble) has less to do with amateur content, and more to do with copyright infringing content. After all if I had not wanted to see those cricket games, there was little chance of me visiting and spending so much time on You Tube. I wonder how many people actually visit You Tube to watch broadcast content online.

Maybe that is one of the reasons why online video companies like Brightcove (on the front page of Wall Street Journal) have a much better future than You Tube. Despite the glowing profile, I do wonder how much of Brightcove’s future depends on content companies’ desire to cannibalize their current businesses. Amateur video content is far from being must-see TV.

  1. A great series, Om. Especially the ODI’s are worth watching. Cannot wait for the India Vs. England series to start.

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  2. As popular as SNL’s YouTube bit became, I don’t know a single person who actually watched more SNL because of it. In fact, the overriding view seemed to be “if they do any more really good skits, I’ll be able to see them on YouTube.” I know the cliche about there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I have to think the fact that your work is easily available on demand without advertising is considered bad publicity (atleast for a major producer).

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  3. The online video community is responding to the demand that the broadcasters have not been quick enough to satisfy, and YouTube / Google Video are simply reflecting that demand.

    No doubt, as more popular/viral videos appear, they will attract attention from the industry legal guns looking to shut them down.

    Instead of the film/TV industries’ sue-first-think-later approach, they need to realise that they have thousands of media producers working free of charge to edit, classify and repackage their content. Instead of criminalising this activity they need to get smart, and learn how to capitalise on it.

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  4. I think the content companies have to seriously take a look at what they are not doing right. Having said that the issue now is sales lost VS. video let loose on the web.

    I think $1.99 is just too much for Video downloads. Especially Small screen Videos. I would like to get better quality higher resolution videos for that price.

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  5. [...] Om Malik again on the dark side of video sharing, louder: “I believe that the growing popularity of You Tube (and other online video sites… about 95 in total as per Mary Hodder of Dabble) has less to do with amateur content, that it has to do with copyright infringing content” [...]

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  6. In countries like Italy where I live, where there is no HDTV offering at all, internet downloads have a clear opportunity to leapfrog terrestrial and satellite TV. And the opportunity is even clearer if you think to how late and pricey BlueRay and HD-DVD will come into the picture. Of course media companies will still have to deal with Bittorrent which has already leapfrogged TV on HD, at least for an English speaker who can watch all favourite Tv shows 9 months ahead in 720p. But then, it still very much about copyright infringment.

    The truth is, weblogs are interesting reads and picture are flickricious, but studios and major leagues still make the best Tv to watch

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  7. YouTube – the video equivalent of Napster?

    YouTube is a video clip hosting site where anyone can upload and tag a video clip for others to watch and share with friends. Users vote for videos they like and can be sorted by popularity. There are thousands of short videos listed, in hundreds of ca…

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  8. YouTube has the “cool factor” like MySpace does with the young audience. It will be easy for someone like Jason to replicate the technology and infrastructure necessary to compete with YouTube. But, it will NOT be easy to generate the same buzz and excitement with that crowd that YouTube already has.

    If YouTube can stay out of court, screen content appropriately, build its user base, and attract advertisers, they will have a very nice business. YouTube is the video equivalent of Napster…except it is legal. As many of you know, I was formerly vice president of product development at Napster…before the courts shut us down :-(

    See my take on the story at http://dondodge.typepad.com/thenextbigthing/2006/02/youtubethe_vid.html

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  9. Indie content is not far from a must see. In many cases personal content is if it is not relevant. NO company has yet capitalized on that opportunity of being a showcase for quality independent content. My company YouAreTV is working on that as we speak.

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  10. i went to youtube’s homepage and didn’t find any entertainment.

    as more companies enter this space, and because entry barriers are low, the entire space will be fragmented.

    youtube should pray to be bought quickly or lose lots of money on traffic.

    BTW, if you are looking for video ENTERTAINMENT- go to http://www.metacafe.com. the best unknown web 2.0 startup in the web-video space.

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