The big news last week was the announcement by News Corp/NBC that they are to combine forces to create an online video platform of their own. The new venture has already signed up all of Google's main rivals as distribution partners (AOL, Microsoft, MySpace and Yahoo), making it seem like an "anybody but GooTube" play, designed to stifle the search giant's growing dominance of online video.
A major factor in the thinking behind this strategy is that the new venture will be able to offer "premium content" which won't be available elsewhere online. News Corp/NBC content will be exclusive to its distribution partners, which, for the time being at least, won't include YouTube. Google then has two choices: miss out on all of that premium content, or sign on as a distribution partner under terms favorable to News Corp/NBC. However, there is in fact a third option: continue operating under the protection of the DMCA's safe harbor provision. This is where -- in the short term at least -- News Corp/NBC's strategy could backfire significantly. Here's how:
- The new venture will carry a finite amount of News Corp/NBC content, which will depend of what the two companies each decide to offer (some free, some paid-for).
- YouTube continues to utilize the DMCA's 'safe harbor' to allow users to upload what they want, without prior screening or the use of filtering software.
- The result is that Google could have a larger catalog of News Corp/NBC content than their own offering, and it's almost certain that content which isn't offered by the new venture will appear on YouTube/Google Video.
Therefore, if the News Corp/NBC venture is too conservative in what it decides to make available for free (and under what restrictions), then -- partner or no partner -- GooTube may still be News Corp/NBC's biggest online distributor.
In the end, the News Corp/NBC venture may turn out to be a sideshow, as Google's dominance of the online video market could still be determined by the courts.
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