Keeping ahead of the advertising

It was reported on Tuesday that the entertainment giant Viacom, which owns MTV and Nickelodeon, will be launching a billion-dollar lawsuit against YouTube and its owner Google. YouTube, Viacom argues, does not take sufficient responsibility for removing copyrighted Viacom content from its video sharing site.

The most common response to this news that I have read about has said that Viacom is making a mistake: that they are struggling against a market whose natural flow is in fact in their best interests. As Jeff Jarvis observes, Viacom is ‘trying to spread stupid’, by criticising the actions of its own fans, who are publicising Viacom content.

The clever action, so goes Jarvis’ argument, would be for Viacom to do as CBS and, in fact, the BBC are doing: They are condoning the posting of copyrighted content on YouTube, not only by leaving it on the site, but by replacing it wherever it exists with high-quality copy. CBS’s and the BBC’s idea here is to use YouTube for the marketing tool that it provides, concentrating YouTubers’ attention around single high-quality copies of their content.

As one comment on Jarvis’ blog puts it, however, the argument is not so one-sided: YouTube is illegally hosting the best of Viacom content, deriving its own potential revenue from it, and developing but containing its own audience – because they don’t necessarily have to go anywhere else to get the Viacom content they want.

Basically, Viacom aren’t stupid, they do have a point, and perhaps in their case they should be taking the action that they are.

The CBS/BBC model is a good one, but the merit of it is found not so much in the ‘clever’ strategy itself, as in what it intends for the quality and nature of their content. The secret to making use of YouTube as they plan, will be for CBS and the BBC continually to offer, on their own channels, fresh, appealing product, which competes with what should be regarded only as its own advertising on YouTube.

It will be a shame if Viacom wins a lot of ground against YouTube in the outcome of this lawsuit: the CBS/BBC model is one that will only drive better content.