Reading the WSJ today, you might have been forgiven for thinking that even after a decade of futility, Big Media has learned exactly nothing about the Internet. For today came new rumors that Fox, CBS, Viacom, and NBC are discussing forming a "competitor to YouTube."
A competitor to YouTube? On the theory that Big Media content is so valuable that if Big Media companies form their own video downloading site, net users will flock to it--and YouTube will be toast? Apparently. But net users won't flock, of course, and YouTube won't be toast, even if Big Media presses on with--and manages to execute--its preposterous plan, which it most likely won't.
Because although Big Media in general is still clueless when it comes to the Internet, a couple of folks sitting at the Big Media-YouTube negotiating table aren't. One of them, in fact, Quincy Smith, the head of CBS's interactive team, even played a role in selling YouTube to Google. So if anyone "gets" YouTube, Quincy does.
So then what is Big Media doing leaking rumors of "YouTube competitor talks" if not being moronic? Increasing its negotiating leverage.
Quincy Smith, presumably, knows that a Big-Media-sponsored YouTube competitor has no more than a snowball's chance in hell, but he also presumably knows that the threat of such a competitor, however ridiculous, might result in slightly better YouTube royalties for the eventual Big Media-YouTube deal. Quincy also presumably knows that even though Google knows that a Big Media YouTube competitor is a hallucination, it also knows that Quincy's Big Media bosses probably don't know it, and therefore that the Big Media Bosses might just be moronic enough to put their eggs in that basket for a while (thus slowing YouTube's march to world video domination). So Quincy is probably right that, even though everyone at the Big Media-YouTube negotiating table regards the "Big Media YouTube competitor" rumors as a joke, they still might nudge Google-YouTube into parting with a few more cents on the dollar.
Expect rumors of an imminent Big Media video-portal deal to intensify for a few more news cycles...right up until we get the announcement of a more comprehensive Big Media-YouTube deal. Or, if Big Media actually presses on with the absurd idea, shake your head in dismay.