Online Video–To Serve Man? Or to Serve Man With a Side of Fries?
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google (owner of YouTube).
Of course, Washington politicians–most of whom never met a camera they did not mug for–are concerned with the future of video, especially as it leaps increasingly to the Web. With potential for access to even bigger audiences and, more importantly, for upsetting the order of the universe (where, since the Nixon-Kennedy debates, television has reigned unchallenged from a political point of view), it’s a natural topic for a congressional hearing.
And so it was late last week, when big-tech poster boys–including YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley and always voluble entrepreneur Mark Cuban, now of HDNet–appeared before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Both discussed the impact of Web video on the watching public.
The self-effacing Hurley, no surprise, said YouTube was no TV-killer, and, in fact, was a different beast altogether with its short-form offerings. In addition, as YouTube execs keep repeating in the vain hope that it might make the $1 billion lawsuit from Viacom disappear, he also stressed that YouTube and its ilk were actually helpful in getting the word out about existing programming on television.
Is it just me, or do such reassurances feel like that famous “Twilight Zone” episode, “To Serve Man,” when the aliens who seemingly came in peace to help mankind were actually chefs looking for new ingredients (“It’s a cookbook!”)?
Speaking of surprises, Cuban actually did not use the opportunity to question YouTube’s valuation, prospects or strategies, as he did in a recent post on his blog called, of course, Blog Maverick.
But, being Cuban, he did swat at the state of broadband access–specifically, its glacial speed compared to most countries (the U.S. actually lags behind Luxembourg in this regard). Pointing to bandwidth constraints, Cuban was entirely right when he said that it would be a long time before Internet video was ever a threat to television, noting it was a more of a complementary sidelight.
Of course, that’s just what a hungry alien would say.