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What Happened to the YouTube Empire We Were Promised?

Lots in the news recently about how rocky is the road travelled by Google in trying to make YouTube an online video money-making powerhouse. The always-excellent Internet Marketing Monitor has catalogued a series of “setbacks” suffered by Google recently:

…and so forth.

YouTube logoI know how they feel. I believed that Google couldn’t help but succeed, given the enormous amount of money that Google’s audience represents in advertising revenues. Reading these stories was a disappoitment because I felt that Google might let this opportunity slip through its fingers.

But then I thought about it some more and here is what I found…There is plenty of blame to spread around.

In fact, although you could blame Google, I think the lion’s share of the blame should rest with the studios — based on their ignorance, greed and a desire to control forces that are grossly beyond their control.

Hear me out and consider this:

Of all the studio honchos that I’ve read about, only Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television, got it right when she said “We want to go wherever our viewers are. Viewers have control and show no sign of giving it back.”

Is she really the only honcho who understands that the viewers are walking away (in droves!) from “traditional” movie, music, and broadcast TV prodcuts? Maybe not. But she does show a refreshingly pragmatic approach to the market.

Seems obvious — there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. That said, Disney is still taking the ultra-cautious approach, having cut a deal with board director Steve Jobs’ iTunes and not Google. And make no mistake: iTunes represents only 1/40th of the volume of downloaded music — and they’re the Big Dog in the pay-for-play music industry. Hunh.

Makes you wonder what would happen if someone offered non-DRM mp3s for, say, 3 cents each. I think there’s money to be made on that, boys and girls. But the traditional studios won’t do it because they want the Big Score.

In other words, all the other studio heads are still thinking about old patterns and protocols. For example, television networks are used to getting $0.30 and more in commercial advertising revenues per viewer for a hit show.

But the revenues from Google advertising are considerably lower than that: A page eCPM of $1 generates only a tenth of a cent per view in revenue. Multiply that by ten and you still have only a cent. But those fractions-of-a-penny have added up to billions-with-a-B for little old Google.

Yes, yes, I know: the content on YouTube is infringing on copyrighted material. But, paraphrasing Sweeney again, piracy is, in fact, a business model.

But that apparaently is too daring a concept for the studio heads. Not only that — they cannot even acknowledge that a YouTube video ain’t broadcast TV and never will be.

So, I ask you: who really has their head you-know-where?

Bottom line: movie, music and TV entertainment content isn’t worth what the studios think it’s worth — not anymore, not in a Bit Torrent/YouTube world.

In THAT world, I think Google has a better idea of what (and where) the viewers are — and where the money is coming from and how much of it there really is and how to get it.

Anyway, that’s all just my opinion. I might be wrong.

But I doubt it.

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