It was announced today that YouTube is launching a movie rental business. In a Comscore report, it emerged that last August, over 10 Billion videos were streamed on YouTube. Despite this, YouTube is a fledgling business, and Google are struggling to find a way for the model to make money.
The premise of this new model is that content producers will be able to set their own price for streaming their content, and YouTube will take a cut. The pilot programme will initially offer only five films to rent. The movies will come from the 2009 and 2010 Sundance Film Festival and will only be available in the US. However, it sets the ball in motion to allow YouTube to develop a model that will allow them to approach big studios and add more paid, on-demand content, and begin to compete with other on-demand paid streaming models such as iTunes and the X Box Live distribution model, and will also be something to threaten the local video store business, which already has had to diversify considerably to stay afloat.
There are a few things with this model that don’t work for me, as a Producer. The first problem with YouTube is the nature of the community, and the users of the site. There seems to be a very high signal-to-noise ratio from complete idiots on YouTube, and the comments on YouTube videos must be some of the saddest representations of culture on the planet as it stands today.
So, by and large, if YouTube were a person, he is a diabetic overweight 14 year old bigot, with learning difficulties, who suffers from ADD and Touretts Syndrome, high on Gatorade and compensating for his inadequacies by becoming the loudest idiot in the village.
Is this the audience any noteworthy Director really wants for their film? There are other communities out there, such as the wonderous Vimeo, which is populated by a whole new breed of HD director-producers, who take time and care over their work. As a result, the feedback on videos posted there tends to be very supportive, as people are appreciative of the effort that goes into the production process.
I realise that this is a somewhat elitist viewpoint, and am reminded of the Simpsons episode where they attract a film festival, and Homer keeps shouting for the ‘Ball in Groin’ film to win. If that’s what people want, let ’em have it etc.
The final problem with YouTube is that, up until very recently, they were oblivious about paying producers for their content, and you can still pretty much find anything up there, regardless of who the original owner is, and how they feel about not being compensated. Music Producer Pete Waterman said something along the lines of having received £150 for 12 million plays of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up on YouTube, and that sums up the problem better than anything.
Google has a history of totally ignoring creative intellectual property rights. They are still scanning authors books and making a certain number of pages viewable in search results, regardless of the verdict in France. There was a complete lockdown with the music industry in the UK, whereby users could no longer look at music videos (again, mostly illegally uploaded by users, with no means of revenue generation for the creators). The model has traditionally been such that broadcasters, publishers, content producers and musicians have had to just give in and accept that their assets will end up on YouTube for free, with the possibility of some adsense revenue coming in through it.
The point is that YouTube has been happily stepping on other people’s intellectual property since 2005, and is only now offering a deal to actually provide a viable legitimate distribution channel. It is clear that Google and YouTube don’t give a fuck about other peoples intellectual IP, so I think it would be funny if lots of competitors reverse engineered all of their search algorithms and launched ‘Yoogle’, the same poxy search engine, without the annoying ads. How could Google cry foul? If nobody else is allowed to profit from their IP, it seems they shouldn’t be either.