Monday, June 18, 2007

The Death of The Poor Man's Tivo

When Google announced the $1.65B acquisition of YouTube last year, you had to know it was definitely not because they wanted the rights to 400 random videos of kids doing the Harlem Shake. Like every other plan hatched by "The Man", I wondered exactly what a behemoth like Google would want with a company that had very little potential for ad revenue.

The Master Plan was just unveiled.

The popular user-generated video sharing site YouTube will begin testing video recognition technology in conjunction with partners Time Warner Inc. and The Walt Disney Co. The test will begin next month with hopes that the software, designed to recognize copyright content in videos, will be ready to roll out later this year, the company said.

The site's owner, Google Inc., has previously pledged to adopt some kind of solution to identify copyright content on its site so it can remove pirated content or negotiate with owners for a license. While much of YouTube's videos are homegrown, copyright content from such partners as CBS and NBC also attract viewers. Protecting those relationships is key for online video sites.

The importance of those relationships was highlighted in March when Viacom Inc. sued YouTube and Google for more than $1 billion in a federal complaint alleging YouTube hasn't done enough to prevent its users from posting thousands of copyright clips to the site.
I, like millions of others, use YouTube to catch up on all the stuff I miss on TV. Didn't see the Presidential debate? YouTube. Wanna see the highlights from Lebron's 48 pointer? YouTube. Kayne wildin' out on George Bush? YouTube. What was that whole "macacca" thing about? YouTube. Master P on Dancin' With The Stars? YouTube. That Shakira and Beyonce video? YouTube. Don Imus? You guessed it...

In a sense, YouTube, and similar sites like MetaCafe and DailyMotion, allow the average man to seldom, if ever miss a thing. It's essentially a Poor Man's Tivo.

You can't really appreciate the convenient of video sharing sites unless you remember the world pre-WWW. Back in the day when if you missed a seminal event, you were just doomed to be permanently out of the loop. I remember in the early 80's, New Edition performed for the first time on national TV on the long cancelled SNL knockoff, SCTV. Watching Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, and Ralph was a life altering experience for a pre-teen. Candy Girl gave young dudes like me new gear to rock and new moves to practice for the middle school dance. For any 70's Baby in the black community, this was akin to the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Even back then, Bobby Brown was already a badass, breaking from the routine, and singing off key with ad-libs. You would see the loose-cannon brilliance that would eventually make him the King of R&B, and butt of all jokes.

If you missed this landmark moment in Negro history, you were clueless that Monday at school. Everyone who saw it talked about it. Everyone who didn't wasn't in the know. For 5th graders, this is important stuff. Luckily, my parents were the first in our neighborhood with a Betamax, so we could re-live this episode over and over, for months until the tape finally broke.

If you missed such an event, you had to hope somebody had taped it, and that they had VHS, since Betamax was short lived and the tapes were tiny. If nobody you knew taped it, you were assed out since the concept of "reruns and block programming" that pervade cable and network TV today didn't fly back then.

Of course, most of this stuff is copywritten material, and there exists the Grand Hu$tle. The big networks don't want you watching on YouTube after the fact, because that equals fewer viewers, which equal less ad revenue. Ad revenue is the straw that stirs the drink when it comes to TV.

The Master Plan is to eventually ensure that every bit of copywritten content on YouTube is posted by the company (TV network, record label, movie studio) that owns it. If you can control this, you can also find ways of deriving revenue (ie: tie in some ads) from it, unlike the free-for-all that currently exists. This means that when you go to search for highlights from the MTV Movie Awards, you'll get one clip, not 30 of that Sarah Silverman vs Paris Hilton monologue, and it will probably contain an ad or a plug for another MTV show. All those cool circa-1990 music videos will disappear. You'll be left with probably little more than user created content like that infamous "Couch Humpin" video.

This isn't anywhere in the revealed plans, but anybody with a 3rd eye and a bit of Negro Intuition could tell you so.

Just remember where you heard about this Grand Hu$tle first.

YouTube to test video fingerprint tool [AP]

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