This NY Post item caught my eye – YouTube was the toast of Herb Allen’s Sun Valley conference, and therefore is now worth $1 billion. I don’t buy it. I don’t think the founders are smoking this shit, I think the media is – at least I hope that’s how it is. Why? Simple really. While YouTube is an amazing service, with extraordinary uptake, I’ve been told (and it seems obvious on first glance) that its core content is mostly copyrighted material. (I make this statement after being told as much by two very senior folks at major media companies who have studied content patterns on YouTube.)
Now, folks who own copyrights are waking up to the power of letting their copyrighted content flourish on YouTube, but that particular worm has not turned – content companies are very, very wary of letting this genie out of the bottle.
So who might buy YouTube? A major entertainment company, like the ones mentioned in the Post piece? No way. That’s buying a lawsuit or ten – if Time Warner bought YouTube, how long do you think it’d be before competitors sued to get their copyrighted stuff off TW’s new service? And once that stuff is cleared off (YouTube does make a point of taking down copyrighted material when asked, but policing that massive service is not exactly a hand-rolled affair), what is YouTube worth then?
It’s something of a catch 22, and augurs a waiting period of sorts. I personally believe YouTube proves that our culture wants desparately out of the traditional model of force fed television, and wants to move to a model where we participate in it – indeed, where we remix and share it. But change takes time, and Big Media Companies With Alot To Lose don’t change that quick.
What about a new media giant buying YouTube – Yahoo, say, or Google? Or Microsoft? Nope, nope, nope. Yahoo is a media company, and acts like one. Google doesn’t have it in its DNA to run a service like YouTube (though Google, with its Switzerland like approach to content, is the best fit, in my opinion). And Microsoft? They don’t need any more legal headaches over in Redmond right now.
It should be an interesting Fall season, that’s for sure. I’ll be watching.