Real Talk: One Too Many Online Video Platforms, Far Too Few Viewers

/ May 9, 2013


Last week, Yahoo! was prohibited from acquiring Dailymotion due to French government interference. But this might be the best thing that ever happened to Yahoo! — it already has one video platform that isn’t really being watched.

In an industry as young as the online video world, you really can’t say that there’s such a thing as a hard truth. But here’s the closest thing to one: Expecting general audiences to watch content that’s not on YouTube, Hulu or Netflix is a very bad bet.

Hulu and Netflix have become genuine destination sites for content, thanks to their acquisitions of premium content, because here’s another let’s-not-call-it-a-hard-truth: Premium content matters. People will show up for shows they want to watch. I spent more time on Yahoo! in the last year than I have in the last six years, and it’s entirely down to Burning Love. And now that the season finale has aired, I’m back to watching content on other sites.

Especially YouTube. YouTube remains the 500 pound gorilla.

One of my favorite questions to ask people who make content for YouTube, or work for companies that make content for YouTube, is this: How comfortable are you with the fact that YouTube is your distribution platform? How comfortable are you, essentially, with the fact that YouTube has the power to make decisions that might hurt your business?

I like to ask this question, because I have never once gotten a good answer, because there isn’t one. It’s hard to be a business whose business depends on another business.

The desire to control the delivery method for content is understandable. But the fundamental issue is this: The number one real problem web content faces is discovery. That’s where the money needs to go. That’s where the development needs to be. Throwing money and time after the idea of owning a unique platform isn’t the solution.

The best way to understand this is to watch the moves Blip is making right now. Rather than pitching itself as an alternative to YouTube, the site is trimming down its programming, expanding distribution deals with sites including YouTube, AOL, and Yahoo and refocusing on premium content. If it works, it’ll give Blip the opportunity to fill a new niche in the online video space, making it a place where original high-quality web series can thrive.

“But from a conservator’s experience what it comes down to is building vertical channels for audiences that don’t live in one destination. I think consumers like curated channels, but I think they need to live where audiences are. We’re trying to create channels that live on every major form of distribution,” Blip CEO Kelly Day said in an interview with VideoInk.

A real YouTube competitor is probably coming, but it will take massive investment for it to be anything but the video equivalent of Microsoft’s Bing — second place to the Google behemoth.

Because a At this stage, web video doesn’t need another platform. It has plenty of platforms – arguably too many.

Here are the two primary battles of web video at this stage: Getting eyeballs on shows that deserve them, and getting those shows the ad dollars they deserve, or finding alternate business models that make them sustainable.

Multiple platforms that fragment audiences do not address either one of those issues; from this perspective, multiple platforms might just be the enemy.

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