Is a vast video library worth the time and money?

Brian Bedol Rob Burnett Lisa Gersh paidContent 2012The killer asset in the video age is widely believed to be a large library full of content that can be sold, licensed and re-distributed onto all sorts of emerging platforms. Or is it?

Speaking at a paidContent 2012 panel Wednesday called “The Video Boom: What’s Next?”, media executives Rob Burnett and Lisa Gersh  approached the topic from two very different yet interesting perspectives.

As president and CEO of Worldwide Pants, Burnett controls a library of nearly 8,000 hours of programming, most of it comprised of 18 years worth episodes from CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman.

“We know the web is perfect for small chunks of comedy, and we have lots of it,” Burnett told moderator Chris Albrecht, who serves as creative director for paidContent parent company GigaOM. “Right now, we’re exploring ways to get all that content out into the world.”

For Gersh, president and CEO of lifestyle publishing giant Martha Stewart Omnimedia, (s mso) the question is, “why bother?”

“Libraries aren’t cheap,” she explained. “Rights need to be cleared, then you need to digitize and tag everything and put it someplace. And a lot of the time that stuff is really old. The hairdos are old, the clothes are old, and it needs to be updated. I sometimes think it’s cheaper and easier just to make new stuff.”

This may be true for how-to cooking and gardening videos. For Worldwide Pants, however, age often works. “For some of the stuff we have, old is where the value is,” Burnett explained, “especially when you’re talking about Steve Martin’s first appearance on the show, or Jerry Seinfeld showing up when he was just a kid.”

Beyond the subjective discussion of the value of libraries, the panel — which also included cable business veteran Brian Bedol — discussed the virtues of the platform they’ve all come to rely on, YouTube (s goog).

Bedol, who now serves as founder and CEO of digital video production company Bedrocket Media Ventures, believes we might have already seen the launch of the last independent cable channel.

“To launch a cable channel, you need a satellite, a sales staff … you’re in the hole $50 million to $100 million before you even know you have an audience,” he said. “With YouTube, you can be distributed everywhere overnight, and you don’t need to make those binary decisions.”

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