Cutting the (Video) Cord: YouTube Close to Deal for Pro Talent

by on January 29, 2009 · 10 comments

This ongoing series has focused on the growing substitutability of Internet-delivered video for traditional video distribution channels like cable and satellite.  YouTube has recently begun exploring adding traditional television programming to its staggering catalogue of mostly amateur-generated content.  

But now YouTube is going one step farther by exploring  the possibility of signing Hollywood professionals to produce “straight-to-YouTube” content:

The deal would underscore the ways that distribution models are evolving on the Internet. Already, some actors and other celebrities are creating their own content for the Web, bypassing the often arduous process of developing a program for a television network. The YouTube deal would give William Morris clients an ownership stake in the videos they create for the Web site.

This kind of deal would make Internet video even more of a substitute for traditional subscription channels—thus further eroding the existing rationale for regulating those channels.  

But what’s even most interesting about this development is that YouTube’s interest seems to be driven primarily by the possibility of reaping greater advertising revenues on such professional content than on its currently reaps from its vast, but relatively unprofitable, catalogue of user-generated content:  

YouTube’s audience is enormous; the measurement firm comScore reported that 100 million viewers in the United States visited the site in October. But, in part because of copyright concerns, the site does not place ads on or next to user-uploaded videos. As a result, it makes money from only a fraction of the videos on the site — the ones that are posted by its partners, including media companies like CBS and Universal Music.

The company has shown interest in becoming a home for premium video in recent months by upgrading its video player and adding full-length episodes of television shows. But some major television networks and other media companies are still hesitant about showing their content on the site. The Warner Music Group’s videos were removed from the site last month in a dispute over pay for its content.

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