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Teens and Video Eye Candy

4 May, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

There's a philosophy among some in Hollywood that infamy tops anonymity every time.

Take the controversial teen network Web site MySpace.com, which was in the news again last month after a 28-year-old teacher — on parole for an unlawful relationship with a 13-year-old student — was arrested for sending sexually explicit videos of herself to the same boy/victim.

The site, in addition to becoming a major communications and advertising conduit to the teen market, has also exposed itself as superhighway for pedophiles.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., which bought MySpace for $540 million, only slightly bemused that half the company's staff was monitoring the site for illicit activity.

Fast-rising competitor YouTube.com, which allows users to upload and distribute videos, including studio fare, recently surpassed 40 million page views. That prompted a reconnaissance mission of sorts by News Corp. unit Fox Entertainment, which found that 90% of the videos on the site were copyrighted from the major studios.

Rather than get mad, Peter Chernin, News Corp. president and COO, was elated. He said whatever copyright infringement had taken place could probably be dealt with a cease-and-desist letter.“What it told us is that there is a huge demand for our video product,” said Chernin.

He reiterated that MySpace was the best deal Fox had ever done, claiming the site was “within 3%” of being No. 1 on the Internet in terms of page reads.

“It will probably in the next few months surpass Yahoo,” Chernin said, adding the site ranked within the top 50 in revenue.

The “success” of MySpace underscores the enlightened approach some studios have taken toward the mercurial teenage consumer and the dissemination of their entertainment.

It has also proved how powerful the studios remain despite rapidly changing distribution channels. The point was driven home at the recent Milken Institute Global Media Conference in Los Angeles when Jonathan Miller, chairman and CEO of AOL, which is repurposing Warner Bros. catalog for the Internet, chided Chernin for access to Fox's catalog content.

“We would be happy to give [it] to you,” quipped Chernin.

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