Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube’s Offer Video-Makers Can’t Refuse: We’re Putting All Your Stuff Everywhere

Last night YouTube rolled out a new app for Google TV. And behind the scenes, YouTube has made a small but important change in the way it deals with content owners.

YouTube is now insisting on the ability to play all videos from content “partners” — video owners that share ad revenue with the site — on all platforms, including mobile phones and connected TVs.

Previously, some video owners have held back their content from some devices, in hopes of making separate deals with other distributors, like Netflix or Microsoft’s Xbox unit.

But now YouTube says it wants to put all its stuff everywhere. The site informed partners about the change at the end of January, and required them to sign off on the deal within a few days, via an electronic “click form.”

The terms don’t affect any of the video makers that YouTube is working with via its new “channels” program, because those companies had already agreed to multi-platform distribution. And there will also be a class of very big media companies that may not have to play by the same rules, either.

Video music site Vevo, for instance, keeps some of its clips off of some platforms, including the YouTube app on the iPhone, because of technical issues like ad servers and branding. That won’t change anytime soon, according to people familiar with the site. I wouldn’t be surprised if big Hollywood studios or TV networks also have carve-outs that won’t get changed.

But there is still a group of video-makers who have millions of subscribers and have generated hundreds of millions of video views, and YouTube’s change will affect them.

The ones I talked to about the new terms — who don’t want me to print their names — say they’ve accepted them reluctantly, because they need the distribution and/or dollars that YouTube provides.

And it’s hard to tell if this actually puts the kibosh on, say, an Xbox deal — maybe Microsoft will still cut them a check. Or maybe Microsoft was never going to cut them a check, anyway.

But it’s certainly good for consumers. There’s a logic behind media companies’ efforts to distinguish a PC screen from an iPhone screen, or a tablet screen from a TV screen. But only if you’re in charge of making biz dev deals for a media company. If you watch video, a screen is a screen is a screen.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus