Foolish strategy by the networks

NBC and CBS have displayed serious strategic ignorance by pulling clips from the popular user-contributed site First, NBC yanked the “Lazy Sunday” skit from Saturday Night live, and now CBS News (after 1.2 million views) has demanded that youTube pull a feature story about an autistic kid who captivated the crowd at a basketball game.

CBS explained is this way on “Public Eye”:

“It’s uncool for people to take our video without permission,” says Betsy Morgan, senior VP and GM of “It’s interesting and encouraging that there’s that much of an audience for our content. But this stuff should come back to the core site — otherwise it’s theft.”
This is bad strategy for the networks, because those youTube eyeballs are youTube eyeballs. To assume they’ll even find such stuff on a network site is seriously silly, and they’re missing a great opportunity to monetize genuinely unbundled content. By insisting that people “come to them,” they are pushing their closed network over the openness that users, especially younger people, associate with the internet. Let me repeat. This is bad strategy, for in today’s Media 2.0 world, it doesn’t matter where your content is played, as long as you attach your marketing or advertising to it. A much better strategy would be to offer youTube an “official” version.

It’s also heavy-handed, despite their plea that this is, after all, illegal (tsk-tsk, you naughty boys). In insisting that others abide by rules that benefit the status quo, the networks are distancing themselves from the very audience they covet. youTube is not the enemy. CBS and NBC (and all who think similarly) are vying for blockbusters in a snowball world. That’s the problem, and if it takes new laws to open the lanes for snowballs, then so be it.

(Thanks to the always excellent Lost Remote)


  1. yeah, i found that nbc move soooo dopey. that snl skit actually got me to watch snl after a 10 year hiatus. my return-to-boob eyeballs put money in their pockets on some level, and now they’ve lost me again.

    executives really need more of your consulting.

  2. Why should networks allow the YouTube website to get free “hits” by using network programming? YouTube would benefit, networks would not.

  3. great post. Where’s the business creativity on the part of the networks? no reason they couldn’t monetize as the content gets distributed. It’s also ironic that ex-corporate sister Comedy Central allows YouTube to distribute clips!

  4. Roger, that’s a fair and common question, but in the unbundled paradigm both the networks and other distribution sites win. Not so by forcing users into closed networks, which they simply won’t use. We’re so past the browse/discover phase of the internet.

    The real question is why the networks have sat back and let others build various distribution portals without getting into the business themselves.

  5. to expand on your point, terry, i’d say that we’re way beyond browse, but we’ve yet to even touch discovery.

    search results are still presented in a flat, paginated interface. clustering executions would greatly expose nuances of query lexicon, which would lead to a higher degree of discovery.

    furthermore, the web’s ability to leverage descriptors (tags) in decentralized ways are only beginning to take off.

    basically, the more distribution points, the more opportunities for content to be found. if nbc really thought out their move, they could’ve innovated a “channel” partnership with a youtube or a google. instead, they reverted to old media thinking of “protecting their property.”

    it’s 101 fear of pomo.

  6. Chaos, like fear, is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall.

  7. here, here.

  8. WKRN evidently shares the beliefs of NBC and CBS, as the videos at are not downloadable.

    If it is a bad strategy for the networks, isn’t it a bad strategy for WKRN?

  9. Be patient, please, Kevin. If you don’t subscribe to the station’s local news RSS feed, you’re missing the mere beginning of unbundling at WKRN.

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