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Viacom Has the Power

15 Mar, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

I heard the news of Viacom's $1 billion suit against Google and took it in with a low whistle and a measure of satisfaction.

Over the course of the last year and the rise of Youtube, it has seemed that this trendy site functions in an "ask forgiveness, not permission" mentality when it comes to posting copyrighted content.

I believe that not only is Viacom totally in the right, but that it is uniquely suited to be the first company to truly challenge Youtube's questionable practice of conveniently not filtering for copyrighted content.

Viacom has everything on its side. It is on the high ground in this issue. Viacom is morally correct in that the company expects to be paid for usage of content it pays top dollar to produce. But more importantly, Viacom is not going after Youtube in an effort to prevent the consumer from having access to that high-quality content.

Viacom is one of the biggest boosters of digital content out there. It was among the first to release scads of movie and TV show programming to viable, monetizable delivery entities across the Internet. It plays no favorites, it holds nothing back (except perhaps with movies to a degree, but I suspect that will begin to change soon). Viacom brands are available for legal ad-supported viewing and downloads at iTunes, Bittorrent, AOL, CinemaNow, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Movielink … the list goes on.

The Viacom TV shows that people most want to see — The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, ect. — are widely available. The company is continually making its content more accessible to the interested consumer, not less.

And the company is not forcing users to one destination, to its own proprietary Web sites for example.

Viacom was obviously watching its own Web sites very closely as Youtube removed hundreds of thousands of pirated clips from Viacom brands recently. Site visits increased across the board at popular destinations for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV shows, Viacom executives said.

Meanwhile, at the same time, the company was in the throes of yet another digital-distribution partnership with Joost.com.

Viacom didn't take that empirical evidence derived from the Youtube smack down — evidence that it could indeed drive Internet video watchers to its own sites — and choose to hoard that content. Viacom saw that evidence and continued to expand its digital offerings.

And, the company is completely committed to giving fans real reasons to choose to travel to Viacom-owned Web sites, creating compelling original content at its own sites and virtual worlds and communities that expand the user experience and deepen fan connections to valuable intellectual properties.

If the Internet is truly to become a viable, long-term medium for distributing video content, it will be because of strategies founded by companies like Viacom, companies that offer more and assign value to content, not companies like Youtube that are happy to glom off the abilities of others.

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