Viacom cuts off nose to spite face

Viacom just demanded the YouTube take down clips from its networks, including Comedy Central and MTV. Wave bye-bye to Jon Stewart and Jon Stewart should wave bye-bye to audience.

Just last night, my son showed me Bill Gates on The Daily Show via YouTube. My son, a teenager and the future audience for the network, had never watched Jon Stewart. It was through YouTube that he discovered and enjoyed the man. But Viacom just cut off that means of free — free! — promotion and distribution. Instead, the company is going to have to advertise heavily in hopes of reaching my hard-to-reach son — he’s busy watching YouTube, you see, instead of MTV and instead of television, for that matter — to build audience in the future. Of course, this is a negotiating tactic. But it is also bad business. It pisses off your own audience, who is recommending your shows. It cuts off that free promotion. It increases marketing costts.

Damned fools.

  • http://www.benhammersley.com Ben Hammersley

    Their decision is more complicated than it seems. Almost the entire Daily Show, and the Colbert Report for that matter, are available online for free on the Comedy Central website. It’s all there, very very nicely presented too. So it’s not that they don’t want to give the video away for free on web – they just want it on their own (advertising supported) site, not on YouTube. There’s, no doubt, a revenue-protection thing going on here *within* the online department, not between the online people and the rest of the world as per usual.

    Still, once YouTube has a revenue model in place, it’ll all come back.

  • http://www.limeyinbermuda.com Phil Wells

    A colleague at work sent me that Bill Gates clip on YouTube this morning. I’d heard of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show before, but never watched it. After chuckling at Stewart’s comments I went to the Comedy Central site and watched another clip there, which had me in hysterics. I now plan to set my DVR to record every episode.

    One new viewer that they wouldn’t have had without YouTube.

  • http://strumpette.com Amanda Chapel

    Is it because you don’t understand “for profit” or is it that you don’t really like the whole idea of money?

    Or maybe, having inserted yourself as spokesperson for a fad you need to say things like “damned fools.”

    Makes you look damned foolish Jeff.

    – Amanda

  • David

    What’s the big deal? If the clips are removed from YouTube, people will just upload them to another site. It’s like a hydra.

    Also it’s worth noting that The Daily Show & Colbert report don’t get particularly strong ratings to begin with–the Chapelle Show was Comedy Central’s big hit. In many respects, the buzz that these programs generate on the web is completely disproportionate to their performance on the air. I think that may be related to their popularity with the blogging community and the ease with which short segments (soundbytes doesn’t quite work here) of the programs can be enjoyed/dissected/ridiculed and so forth.

  • http://www.Leebow.com Ken Leebow

    1. I’ve been told first-hand that Google is not negotiating in good faith with many of the media companies that own the rights to the videos. Let’s face it, until they pay for the videos, they are stealing them.

    2. Comedy Central’s site is difficult to navigate to obtain videos. If CC and others made their sites easy to navigate and provide the embed feature, they might have a fightin’ change.

  • http://www.tomdevine.net Tom

    Jeff is right, the short term gain Viacom will get in a stronger negotiating position with Google will be cancelled by long term ill will and loss of audience share. If only they would put more energy into trying to exploit the advantages of YouTube instead of trying to cripple it, they’d be better off. The video revolution isn’t over. In fact, it hasn’t even really begun. If big boys like Viacom feel threatened now, they better brace themselves because they ain’t seen nothin yet.

  • Paw

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Amanda. Youtube has built its business through unauthorized use of copyrighted material. And yet they have the nerve to issue this response:

    “It’s unfortunate that Viacom will no longer be able to benefit from YouTube’s passionate audience which has helped to promote many of Viacom’s shows”

    What’s truly unfortunate for Youtube is that they will no longer be able to use this content for free, which has helped to make Youtube’s founder billionaires without paying license fees.

    As for your son, Jeff, if he’s not watching TV anyway, why would not giving him this content on Youtube matter? If he’s watching it anywhere but Comedy Central or comedycentral.com, the company paying for its creation gets no benefit.

  • chico haas

    Steal Peet’s coffee and give it away free in another, cooler, coffeeshop. Good for me. Good for the coffeeshop. Good for Peet’s reputation for coffee. Peet’s just doesn’t like the steal part. Damned fools.

  • http://newstracker.blogs.syracuse.com Brian Cubbison

    Perhaps Google will develop some sophisticated pattern recognition software, then sell advertisements based on the objects seen in each video.

  • http://james.cridland.net James Cridland

    As I say in my response, you’re arguing that any content can be stolen and placed on another website, surrounded by advertising, and the content owner should be grateful for the publicity. Which is a bit of a damn foolish argument, in my book.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Google takes other people’s rankings of other yet people’s web pages, wraps them in yet yet other people’s ads and shoves them down other still other people’s networks at happy consumers.

    They’ve been getting away with this scam for so long they feel entitled, and will share no revenue beyond a mere pittance. But they’re not evil, because they said so.

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  • thomas

    Actually, this isn’t the only youtube story out today:

    “YouTube has blocked a small company from making YouTube videos available on mobile phones. The action came just days after YouTube announced its own mobile deal with US mobile phone operator Verizon.

    TinyTube used to encode YouTube video so that it was available to view on mobile phones, but was stopped late last year by YouTube, which contacted it and said that that encoding violated the YouTube terms and conditions.”

    i’m really surprised that googletube is taking the short term view here – anything that makes youtube more accessible is clearly good for them, good for users

    as more money comes into the youtube community, it’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Damned fools.

  • myspaceblogger

    If free promotion is what we’re after, then we can use the power of Myspace marketing and go for free Myspace videos.

  • http://lettertoamerica.blogs.com Jett Loe

    I wonder how the agreements Viacom has made with other networks/broadcasters fit into this.

    I live in the UK where the Daily Show is available on Channel 4’s ‘More 4′ – since it has been so easy to watch the Daily Show/other favourite shows on YouTube/broadband I find myself never turning on the TV. Would Channel 4 have a case for some sort of breech of contract if Viacom did not demand the clips be taken off?

  • http://sidesalad.net Jeff

    Tell you what. I’ll just take all your content here and set it up on a mirror site with better display and more engaging visuals and community input. Plus, I’ll weed through all that boring Davos crap to get the parts people really want.

    You won’t mind, will you? You’ll get more exposure on my site than you would on yours.

    I’m calling it YouScrewed.

    Theft is theft, no matter how you dress it up with fancy new media garnish.

  • Alex c

    So if i get your argument correctly. Promotion means free content. so if a movie in fact improves sales of a book – harry potter – then i should be able to make a movie on harry potter without paying anything. That’s awesome – damn fools.

    Google takes your content, removes the ads so it’s an “engaging user experience” does not share a dime with you whn you have a large online audience of your own and make hundreds of millions there… and you should say thank you for the promo.

    Are you that obvious…damned fool

  • http://www.myubo.com Plotkin

    A new video sharing service that is technologically going even beyond YouTube was launched in Jan 2007. Its name is MYUBO. Apart from the Web, it can also be accessed from mobile phones (upload & watch) and works on all mobile data networks – including GPRS, EDGE, or CDMA and 3G/UMTS.

    http://www.myubo.com
    http://myubo.mobi

    Even though MYUBO is still in beta phase it has already captured the attention of Internet and mobile phone users.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Viacom needs to embed advertising (think American Idol Coke bottles) and capitalize on the wider distribution channel. They are damned fools.

    All the Luddites decry YouTube – it’s funny yet tragic. The game has changed. If you launch up fireworks in your backyard, how can you possibly stop your neighbors from enjoying them?

    Of course someone could take Jeff’s blog or my blog for that matter, repackage it and sell it. We knew that on day one. Jeff has leveraged his blog into consulting gigs for himself; mine is for personal amusement.

    Jim Colbert as “intellectual property”?

    Now THAT is funny.

  • Jegster

    Doesn’t anyone remember how MTV was responsible for the enormous success of artists like Duran, Duran, Twisted Sister, The Police, and even Michael Jackson? It can be credited with the resurgence of artists like Yes, Steve Windwood”, and Genesis. It can also be given credit for launching a new generation of Deadheads, because of the success of The Grateful Dead’s only chart topping single, A Touch of Grey, was due largely to it’s successful video.

    How much did MTV pay for the videos that were responsible for it’s success? Nothing! The promotion and excitement caused by the exciting, “new” video form built many an artist’s career and filled the coffers of the record companies. And they didn’t have to pay a dime for that promotion! One hand fed the other.

    Apparently, MTV (and it’s parent, Viacom) have forgotten that.

  • http://www.idonothingallday.com idonothingallday

    if you could get your fill of jon stewart on youtube why would you watch it on tv or on comedy central?

  • Doug Lay

    None of the folks hatin’ on Google’s business model is even remotely addressing the issue of what the right business model should be. Maybe all the hatin’ will get a judge to shut YouTube down and send Google “crawling” away billions poorer. Will that make the content companies a dime richer in the long run? One thing that would result, as sure as night follows day, is the rise of more decentralized and hard-to-control channels for unauthorized file sharing. Just like Napter led to Kazaa led to the torrents.

    Jeff is trying to help the content industries, and some of you, apparently oblivious to the radically changed distribution landscape brought about by the Internet, are trying to shoot the messenger.

  • http://newstracker.blogs.syracuse.com Brian Cubbison

    There simply needs to be a way to advertise in a video that’s distributed across many networks. Preroll is probably not the answer. Maybe it’s the little bug in the corner. An advertiser who is seen by millions of viewers won’t care whether it came over a broadcast tower, satellite dish or YouTube. Media producers should be working on a way to sell non-annoying advertising within the YouTube videos.

  • Doug Lay

    To qualify my above rant a bit: Ken Leebow’s post above does talk about a possible business model, and seems less vitriol-filled than some of the other posts from the content industries’ point of view. I think he’s over-optimistic about the networks’ chances of building their own Internet distribution infrastructure though.

    I’ll also point out that although the content folks are no doubt sincere in their belief that unauthorized use of their material is the same thing as theft, and some judges may agree with this view, the majority of the American public does not feel this way, and neither does the written law.

  • http://cindycrawford.blogspot.com Kevin

    I like how theft is easily written off as “promotion”. It is not promotion to take a show on a network you have to pay to watch and stream it on the internet for free. It is theft. Anyone who says differently is so full of crap they need to be flushed.

  • Stickler

    To the Editor:

    It’s Jon Stewart.

  • http://www.newcritics.com Tom W.

    Jeff – don’t be silly here. This is one multi-billion corporate negotiating with another, simple as that. Has nothing to do with the kids, or new media, or any kind of revolution. It’s about getting a good deal from Google. You’d do the same damned thing.

  • Roger

    What irks me is that it’s not just clips from shows like The Daily Show that are being removed. Thousands of music videos have also been pulled. Why? Because they were recorded off of MTV or VH1 — in some cases, 10 or 20 years ago, back when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos — and have the network’s logo in the corner. Viacom seems to think they “own” all music videos that ever aired on one of their networks. Can someone please explain to me how uploading a 3-minute music video from 1992 on YouTube infringes on Viacom’s ability to do business and make money?

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/jim jim moore

    I agree with Jeff J.–Viacom is cutting of its nose and perhaps other parts of its anatomy. One of my videos was taken down–and it did not violate Viacom’s copyrights. Now, do I love Viacom more or less?

  • jackstone

    Jeff, you’ve got a teenage son who has never seen Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show?

    …Who’s the fool?

  • Jake

    Roger,

    The music videos are Viacom’s property, period, and most are (or will be) available at iFilm, which Viacom owns. I don’t buy the argument that intellectual property is by definition community property just because the public thinks it should be. If they own it, it is theirs to use as they see fit.

    Furthermore, I can understand why Viacom in particular would want to take a stand because a fair amount of its content across the MTV Networks division (especially Comedy Central, MTV, and VH1) can be enjoyed in 3 or 5 minute chunks.

    Now having said that, there are probable (but as-yet completely unsubstantiated) benefits associated with promoting content on YouTube or similar sites–in addition to reducing the risk of PR disasters similar to that incurred by the record industry with its periodic cease-and-desist order shotgun blasts into the sky.

    However the above all implies that this isn’t just a negotiation tactic as others have pointed out. In contrast to a lot of content companies, Viacom is starting to learn that it has to keep its lawyers and MBAs on a leash if it expects to fundamentally understand the internet, much less learn to make money, which still looks highly unlikely at present for any incumbent.

  • Eric

    You guys are, perhaps intentionally, missing the point in Jeff’s post. Some of you guys are speculating about the reasoning behind Viacom’s decision without evidence to support your contention.

    The question isn’t who owns the content. The question isn’t whether or not Viacom has a right to control distribution. There’s no question Viacom owns the content. Viacom controls the distribution. Viacom has the power and authority to prevent Youtube from providing that content on Youtube’s website.

    The question that Jeff is presenting is whether or not it makes sense from an advertising/marketing standpoint to cut off this possible promotional tool. On that question, I agree with Jeff. Sure, Viacom protects their own product, which many of you readers zealously seek to also protect. However, Viacom also prevents the development of a possible revenue source by stopping people who would not have otherwise watched their content via their own existing television stations or websites. Thus, the question Jeff is asking is does shutting down such a source of possible advertisement make business sense in the long run? I agree that the answer is no.

  • Jake

    I think that in many respects you’re exactly right, however part of the issue (I used to work for a Viacom division FWIW) is that Google is one of just a handful of companies that’s capable of monetizing traffic. Viacom content can be found on dozens if not hundreds of ad-free sites across the web; it’s just that Google/YouTube have–especially since Davos–been making noises about selling ads on their site, and apparently there have been disputes between Viacom & Google in terms of how revenue would be shared and who would sell the ads (I have no knowledge about specifics here).

    YouTube is one of many, many nearly identical sites. The possibility of its owners selling ads against someone else’s content without permission is what makes it special in this case. The promotional benefits–or potential backlash–while still murky at this point, are simply not as critical as the outraged (“but what about the children?”) Jeff claims because the same content can readily be found elsewhere.

    Frankly I think it was the tone of Jeff’s original post that set the media hearts aflutter rather than its substance or intent.

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  • http://www.financialcrisistoday.org/ Doublethought

    It’s not the first time when content companies believe that when someone doesn’t do things exactly their way, it’s illegal. Viacom slapped YouTube and parent company Google with a lawsuit, seeking more than $1 billion in damages. As far as I know, Google has fulfilled its obligations under the DMCA, promptly removing material afterreceiving a valid notice. They went even further, removing material that didn’t belong to Viacom because Viacom could be bother to verify the stuff they wanted removed was actually infringing. They’ve even complied with requests to identify individuals who post material.
    Unfortunately, the first rule, if you are going to sue someone is “do they have deep pockets?” If the answer is yes, one does not need to even consider points 2 through 10 which deal with trivialities like whether anyone was harmed.

  • http://lyemium.com design

    What baffles me the most is that “the music industry” is a supranational entity. There is a supranational entity, named “the music industry”, and it is both big and concrete enough to sue a country that doesn’t play for ‘its’ interests.
    That is a lost battle, that there is a cartel that, in our heads, represents the whole “music industry” of the world, and speaks for all the people related to music.

  • http://www.buydutchseeds.de hanfsamen

    They went even further, removing material that didn’t belong to Viacom because Viacom could be bother to verify the stuff they wanted removed was actually infringing. They’ve even complied with requests to identify individuals who post material.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/rifatozkancomtr R?fat Özkan

    It’s not the first time when content companies believe that when someone doesn’t do things exactly their way, it’s illegal. Viacom slapped YouTube and parent company Google with a lawsuit, seeking more than $1 billion in damages. As far as I know, Google has fulfilled its obligations under the DMCA, promptly removing material afterreceiving a valid notice. They went even further, removing material that didn’t belong to Viacom because Viacom could be bother to verify the stuff they wanted removed was actually infringing. They’ve even complied with requests to identify individuals who post material.

  • http://xtendedview.com How To Tech

    Unfortunately, the first rule, if you are going to sue someone is “do they have deep pockets?” If the answer is yes, one does not need to even consider points 2 through 10 which deal with trivialities like whether anyone was harmed.

  • http://engineeringstuff.in MU engineering

    What baffles me the most is that “the music industry” is a supranational entity. There is a supranational entity, named “the music industry”, and it is both big and concrete enough to sue a country that doesn’t play for ‘its’ interests.

  • http://www.techtushar.com Tech News and Gadgets

    ay miss out on impressing my kids. I can imagine the type of discussions going on in Viacom HQ between the here-and-now arguments of those citing the court of law and copyright infringement versus those citing the court of public opinion and marketing potential. Looks like the lawyers won and it’s diffic

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