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Networks Discuss Web-Only Station

The four major TV networks want to make a single website for all network programming.
December 11, 2006

Over the past few months, television networks have started embracing the Web. Executives have watched as tens of thousands of users flock to YouTube, the ubiquitous video website owned by Google. A few networks went so far as to reach out to the site, opening licensing discussions for network programming.

Fortunately for us, the networks realized that they would be better served by streaming their own programming. Centralizing all of the content through Google would radically reduce the competitive environment for television online, in much the way that iTunes has dominated podcasting and music.

Of course, Google’s ever-growing audience may force networks to license their content to YouTube unless they can find–or build–a competing site. And building their own site is exactly what may happen. According to this Reuters story, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that three of the major networks and News Corp. are discussing what a jointly owned and operated network site would look like.

From the Reuters article:

While a deal is still far off, the four media companies envision a jointly owned site that would be the primary Web source for videos from their television networks, the paper said in an online report on wsj.com, citing people close to the situation.

The companies aim to cash in on the fast-growing market of Web video advertising and have also discussed building a Web video player that could play clips, the Journal said.

Disney–which has taken a similar stance with its movie franchise, according to the fourth item in this MacObserver post–said that its subsidiary ABC would not participate in such a venture.

Even without Disney (which would likely be forced to play along at some point or face isolation), a jointly owned website with all network programs simply makes sense. It creates a new revenue stream for an existing product. It’s an easy-use solution for consumers. The companies can also pool their security resources, which might make the videos better protected. And it allows for organic growth, as word of mouth and search optimization would make this a huge win for the networks.

Of course, the Web network isn’t about the general consumer. This is all about changing demographics. A recent study found that more people are watching more video online, which means fewer people are watching traditional television. And it’s not just network television that these folks are watching. YouTube has become an Internet phenomenon, with hundreds of thousands of videos. That, in turn, has caused an influx of competing websites, many of which pay people for the content the sites upload (assuming the work’s copyright isn’t owned by someone else).

Still, creating this site would give the networks far more leverage with Apple and Google, potentially creating a more competitive business environment. And that ultimately suits consumers.

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