The New York Times’ profile of Veoh Networks in Sunday’s paper includes some interesting back-and-forth on video copyright issues and the control of video that’s posted by content creators.
The VeohTV platform, now in beta, rounds up network television offerings in “channels,” which include the Big Four nets and video giant YouTube.
If you want to watch “24,” no need to go to Fox’s site (or view its banner ads). Veoh says it doesn’t need anyone’s permission to track and play already-existing internet videos. Over to the Times:
By only offering video, VeohTV omits all the other advertisements on the network sites. For example, people who watched an episode of “Heroes” on NBC.com last week also saw for 40 minutes a banner ad for McDonald’s on the same page. VeohTV users watching the same episode would not see the banner.
Rick Cotton, the executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, said that streaming full-length television episodes drives traffic to other parts of NBC’s site and exposes users to the ads on it. And the right to play those shows is valuable, he said, pointing to the still-unnamed venture between NBC Universal and the News Corporation to create an online repository of their TV shows and movies. Sites like MySpace, AOL and MSN have already entered into commercial agreements to display the venture’s content.
“This material has value,” Mr. Cotton said. “The notion of taking it and generating traffic with it needs to be negotiated and needs to be done with the agreement of content owners.” That’s why NBC and the other major studios are keeping close tabs on VeohTV’s business model.
A YouTube spokesman told the Times that VeohTV pre-empts its ads while violating YouTube’s agreements with content originators such as the networks. Veoh says its TV service is just making it easier to do what can already be done on YouTube.
Veoh wants to be part of the big-boy club, so it’s chastly wooing content providers. But this issue, in general, remains a major Internet copyright debate that the courts ultimately will have to sort out. Even if it doesn’t involve Veoh. For smaller players wanting to aggregate video for niche audiences — say a site dedicated to classic jazz clips — this is a pivotal debate as well.
Viacom, of course, is suing Google for $1 billion for massive violations of its copyrights on YouTube. The media giant says YouTube has the resources to remove copyrighted material, while Google sticks to its policy of removing materials when asked to do so.
My money is on a series of Napster-like rulings in which the rich get richer. Or, looking at things the other way, the rich get paid for their work and their massive gambles on programming.