Summary:

Rumors that Google may acquire Next New Networks heated up today, but if the deal goes through, the company won’t be getting the rights to many of Next New’s most popular shows, which belong to their creators. So what does it get instead?

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Google may finally be crossing the content line: The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Google is closing in on its acquisition of Next New Networks, and that the deal might be completed as soon as next week. While a YouTube representative maintains that the company “does not comment on speculation or rumor,” this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this particular rumor: Reports that a deal might come together began back in December.

But what does Google get by acquiring Next New Networks? While the company is thought of primarily as a production company, much of the content that falls under its banner is now the property of its creators, who work with Next New under the Next New Creators program. This includes all of the series in the Hungry Nation network, for example, as well as newer shows like Partners Project, which NNN distributes.

On the original production side, while the MSN series Film Fan just launched a second season with a new host, the daily series The One, which premiered on AOL last November, finished up its first season around the beginning of January.

Next New’s ace in the hole, however, is its Barely Political/Barely Digital brands. While everyone’s favorite, Auto-Tune the News is a Creators show belonging to the Gregory Brothers, music video parody series Key of Awesome is fully a Next New production.

Key of Awesome was a big part of what helped Next New dominate the YouTube most viewed charts in 2010. It was also initially funded by YouTube in 2009 as part of a pilot program that became the YouTube Partner Grants.

So Next New has found success in connecting with audiences — especially audiences hungry for music video parody. But one reason Google might be interested in acquiring Next New Networks is that it might not cost too much: According to the Journal, NNN has been struggling to generate revenue from the advertising on its shows, and recently raised $1 million in debt financing. This is a bit of a reversal from June 2010, when the company neared one billion views and then-CEO Lance Podell told us that it expected to be profitable by the end of the year.

What Next New brings to the table, beyond shows like Key of Awesome, is years of experience in developing content for web audiences — experience they could potentially bring to creators beyond its previously defined channels.

Last month, Google Director of Product Development defined YouTube not as a media company, but as “a media catalyst,” one that he said wanted to “see content getting created, help it find the largest audience possible and make the content creators lots of money so they can reinvest in their vision.” When it comes to the first two goals, Next New has proven success — and maybe YouTube can make up the difference.

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