Viacom is pairing up with Google to test a video distribution model based on AdSense — test being the operative word here — in an effort to match pseudo-viral video with advertising. This could wind up as much ado about nothing or it could turn out to be the kind of new revenue stream Viacom needs to show investors that it’s wringing the most out of every broadband possibility.
Later this month, Google plans to offer a limited number of publishers in its AdSense network the chance to post brief clips from MTVN — Nick’s SpongeBob SquarePants or MTV’s Laguna Beach — and promos starting with the VMAs. Viacom can approve which publishers carry its content and has an audience requirement of at least 100,000 monthly uniques, according to the NYT. (The NYT broke an embargo when the story showed up on its IHT.com site Sunday afternoon, leading to a flurry of early reports.) The WSJ (sub. req.) says about 200 sites that attract teens and young adults have been approved. Some of the sites selected: Popsugar, a celebrity gossip forum, music sites Rapgodfather, Hiphopgame.com, Purevolume.com and Lyrics.com, among others.
According to multiple reports, Viacom will get the bulk of the ad revenue; Google isn’t saying how much publishers will get. Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt told the NYT it’s the same as the text ad policy: “We don’t give people percentages. Just all of a sudden the money shows up, and it’s a lot.”
Don’t mistake it for viral video although this clearly is an effort to find a happy median from the content provider’s perspective.
MTVN isn’t the first Viacom unit participating in a Google AdSense video trial; Paramount took part in a distribution trial with the trailer from “An Inconvenient Truth.”
On another front, the two also announced that MTVN — finally — is adding Google Video to its download-to-own retailers with a selection of programs for sale at $1.99 per episode. Late last week AOL began selling MTVN downloads as part of its expanded AOL Video service.
Rafat: Even if the general idea from Viacom-Google is a step in the right direction, the deal still doesn’t take into account what made sites like YouTube and media sharing popular: The 100K monthly uniques rules out most of the blogs…only the top blogs, if MTVN chooses them, will qualify this way. Also, as NYT says, programming played will change from day to day, to encourage repeat viewing, and as a result, site owners cannot link to a specific clip and write comments about it. So it is what it is: a top-down approach which ignores what makes things viral online.