Viacom's Bet on Web Diversity
Posted by: Rob Hof on October 18, 2007
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, whose company sued Google last year for $1 billion for alleged copyright violations on Google’s YouTube video sharing site, journeyed into the belly of the beast a few minutes ago. He was, not surprisingly, unapologetic about the suit, which was not popular among the Web digerati. But in the process of defending his position, he did make it clear that Viacom is betting big on the notion that people online will travel to hundreds of individual Web sites for the content they want to view. That was underscored by today’s announcement that Viacom would make clips of segments from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart available online for free. “We believe in fragmentation going forward on the Internet.”
Of course, no one person wants to see all of Viacom’s offerings, but I wonder if people really will click directly to all that many individual sites. The rise of YouTube may well depend on the presence of unauthorized videos, but there’s a reason people flock there: They can find what they’re looking for without having to click all over the Net. As Cisco senior VP Dan Scheinman said just a few minutes before, “The challenge of our era is, how do we find anything?”
Search helps, but it’s clearly not the whole answer anytime soon. And I think people, online or off, want to gather where there are a whole bunch of other people.
Can Viacom fight that reality? Maybe, if it can get enough critical mass of fans for each of those sites. And it’s hard to argue with $500 million in online revenue. But I can’t imagine that will ever be completely sufficient. Still seems like there’s more benefit in using YouTube—whose videos are hardly HDTV-quality—as a way to drive traffic to Viacom than in suing it and preventing users from finding what they want.
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