Possible Me-Too Video JV May Have Lost Viacom; Then Again, It’s All Conjecture For Now


imageThe most definitive aspect we can report about the possibility of a major rival to YouTube-Google is this: nothing is definite. Not the participants, not the shape and especially not the creation of a joint venture meshing the economic interests and egos of some of the industry’s major players. One example: no sooner did we confirm the participation of Viacom in discussions than Broadcasting & Cable pops up with a report that Viacom has pulled out. We were also told that CBS is not part of it — although another source familiar with the situation says CBS has been in and out of the mix since the beginning and yet another source says it’s just in with the advent of Quincy Smith; B&C includes CBS in the discussion. Of course, if Viacom zigs, CBS could zag but the content equation isn’t the same. CBS just doesn’t have as much to offer in that regard as Viacom. Disney isn’t involved.
Another source says at various points since the process began early this year each of the companies has been alternately hot and cold. For News Corp., one of the sticking points has been MySpace.com or, more accurately, the inability to find a solution that MySpace will agree with.
Then add a major media/tech company into the mix — aka Yahoo or Microsoft, even IAC or AOL. (Time Warner would be interesting given its video assets and the investment it already has in building out AOL’s video strategy.) As one person familiar with some of the thinking behind the concept put it: “How do you manage that? Who manages that? Who’s strong enough to manage that?” So far, we’ve been told, several people have said no already to the possibility of taking it on; we’ve heard that directly from one person who was approached.
Say you get that far. What do you actually have? From one scenario sketched out for us, you have what amounts to a syndie operation: content would be exclusive to the new destination and to the companies’ own sites unless Newco negotiated a deal with YouTube or AOL or the video flavor of the month. Downloads would still be sold on iTunes or elsewhere but the companies would sell their own downloads via the site. What would the companies stand to gain or lose?
— News Corp. COO Peter Chernin is said to be high on the JV idea but the company already has its own distribution system on the national and local levels as well MySpace.com and its own sales delivery technology (IGN’s Direct2Drive). What would the JV do for News Corp.? Give it the content heft it needs to compete going forward.
— Viacom has iFilm, mobile upload ability via Atom, and a lot of content that skews young. But Viacom has yet to find a way to pull all of its resources into a unified whole or to use them across the board. It’s been suggested internally and was one of the reasons behind the iFilm acquisition but never got very far. Having a major video/social portal could work in its favor. Then again, Viacom is already heavily into content ubiquity across multiple outlets.
— NBCU brings a lot to the table in terms of content and desire to hit a digital home run. NBCU has failed at the portal biz before but also knows the strong points — plus they have new management in that area now.
Movielink syndrome: The JV would have to avoid the dreaded Movielink syndrome where major companies band together to create a kludge so laden with agendas and rules it comes close to sinking under its own weight.
Possibility v. Probability: No one talks about this as a probability or even a likely deal. One source familiar with much of the process is so skeptical that he says, “If it were to be announced and signed, I don’t think there’s a guarantee it happens.”
Rafat adds: Some things from speaking to sources at my end: Disney and Sony have not yet come to the table, and may not. Also, out of CBS and Viacom, one would have to join. So if — if — Viacom has pulled out, then if CBS doesn’t join, the JV wouldn’t happen.
One school of thinking is that Google is playing “divide and rule”: dangle insane amounts of money to one of the players, in this case CBS, to keep it out of the mix.
Another line of thought: That within Viacom, put the effort behind a venture like iFilm, instead of backing the JV. Until last week, there was some buzz about IAC joining as part of this, which by default would mean Brightcove, in which IAC and NBCU parent GE have a big investment, may then become a horse these JV players might back. Not as likely without IAC.
Also, from the stranger-things-have-happened bin, a tip tonight that Yahoo Media Group refugees like Lloyd Braun or David Katz will end up at the venture. Yes, we laughed but in this biz you never know. It is a crazy world.



great report!

"paid content: the sports page of the digital frontier"

i've been trying to think of a successful media JV with more than 2 partners…not a lot of luck so far…


No wonder ,The majority of content on the Venice Project is MTV on demand at the moment during the beta .

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