Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Google Speeds Cable Disintermediation Via YouTube Celebrity Channels

After reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday concerning Google's $100MM bet on celebrity channels on YouTube. It reminded me of my old mentor, Gerry Weiss' insights into competition and colliding arenas.

Gerry and his colleagues developed the concept as strategic planners at GE under Jack McKittrick. Essentially, a technology that is at the core of one entity in one 'arena,' or business area, uses said technology to expand into a new business. The entity's technological and/or other business model attributes strike at a vulnerability of existing occupants of the new business, causing a radical upheaval.

That's what seems to be about to occur at Google/YouTube.

I've been writing about the disintermediation of cable television for a few years. Now I realize that Google's recent staking of various media celebrities to $100MM worth of channels for their own creative usage will only speed that disintermediation. The Journal article cites several actors having broken into work on cable television programs via viral YouTube videos.

I've contended for several years that a writer/producer like Larry David would be foolish to bother putting his next series on cable. He could easily go right to streaming video from a website.

Then Glenn Beck departed Fox News for his own website-based media empire.

The Journal piece ended on a cautionary tone, noting that Google isn't likely to be earning revenues from any of this YouTube effort anytime soon. But offered a silver lining that in just three years, its Android cell phone alternative has grown to take half of the smart phone market.

My own sense of Google and YouTube is that, in the simplest case, they get eyeballs on which to earn advertising revenues. Then, over time, as viewers are trained to watch streaming web videos as their natural way of viewing heretofore broadcast- and cable-only frequently-aired (i.e., weekly programs) content, the step to paying for new content from a bankable talent like David or some other writer will be simple.

At that point, it wouldn't be a stretch for Google to be straying into signing and backing new talent, would it?

Even if not, just by migrating more and more viewers to their streaming video, they'll drain the last drops of life from broadcast network television, while accelerating the problems at cable providers.

That's one of the hallmarks of arena competition. Whether it's smart or not, the new entrant can afford to subsidize its intrusion into the new business with profits from its existing businesses. In Google's case, they aren't unconnected. But its targets don't really have multiple revenue sources on which to rely in the coming video content sourcing battle.

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