Some thoughts on Youtube and Google

Would Google be crazy to buy Youtube. No doubt about it. Moronic would be an understatement of a lifetime.

Would Google be stupid to do a deal with Youtube. Not at all. Would Youtube be smart to do a deal with Google. Thats a different answer.

If Google went to Youtube, like they did Myspace and said they would pay them a minimum of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exchange for letting Google sell text and video ads on Youtube, as long as there were performance requirements it would make perfect sense for Google.

So for Google to say, we will pay youtube Xpct of our revenue we generate from your site as long as you generate X number of users/views/minutes watched, whatever metric they choose. That would be a great deal for Google.

Why ? Because it would get them the opportunity to become the leader in selling video/rich media ads and to enhance their publishing/ad sales to incorporate video for any site that wants to use Google. Of course Google would build in protections against getting sued into oblivian. Their many lawyers will take care of that .

The real question is whether this is a good deal for Youtube. Of the surface how could it not be, right ?

They could be playing Google off against possibly MicroSoft and Yahoo who both will want to dominate and publishing video ads across the web to get the best possible guarantees and percentage of revenue.

They could be pushing for promotional support , maybe even becoming the defaul video for Google or whoever they partner with.

With Google, they may be probing them to host all those videos in the super secret server farms that host Google servers and probably some black helicopters as well.

Like Myspace, they could walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars. Five or Six years, $1.6billion in guaranteed advertising reveue from Google ? Not inconceivable as a deal. Plus it meets the Youtube criteria of not wanting to sell the company.

But that price is probably too high if the Google/Myspace deal already includes video because Google/Mysapce video alone can establish Google as a video ad outlet. ( Since that deal was done before Myspace really pushed into hosting its own video, its hard to know.).

But then its possible that Google wants to pre empt any competition and will pay whatever it takes to lock up both Youtube and Myspace.

What a great deal either way for Youtube, right ?

Maybe not.

300mm a year in revenue doesn’t go as far as it used to. Youtube now becomes a deep pocketed target. Sure, they can try to work out deals with the biggest media companies, but those deals are going to be ultra expensive. If not monstrous up front payments, then huge percent of revenue hits. But that will be the easy part.

This is where the long tail comes back to bite you in the ass. There aint no compulsory license for video. You got to work your way up the long tail , one at a time. Licensing each. Thats an impossible job, which is why the webcasting and related industries have fought for compulsory licenses.

Its not the big companies they would have to worry about the most. Its the little guy. Youtube would get sued by the thousands of rights holders who will seek the maximum amount per download from Youtube for their content.

This is where Youtube is really screwed. Youtube doesn’t stream. They use progressive download. So the damage claims are going to be per download and enormous.

Its obvious what Youtube is trying to do. They are trying to push the obligation of licensing rights out on the rights holders by hiding behind the Safe Harbor rules of the DMCA. Make the rights holders find the copyrighted materials out of 60k uploads a day rather than make Youtube find the copyright owners of the materials uploaded.

As I have said many times, that shit aint gonna fly. I dont think so, and neither does a long, long list of copyright owners. We arent just talking big media companies. We are talking fake a lawsuit companies.

Dont think for a minute that there wont be lawyers writing songs, having their buddies perform them, and putting them on Youtube, jerry rigging the number of views via any number of easy to do processes and then suing Youtube over it.. It will be the Youtube version of shareholder lawsuits. They wont need no stinkin take down notices. They will claim that Youtube isnt a hosting company, they are a media company with licensing deals, getting paid for advertising around video. Just like every other media company

Could Youtube collect enough money to fight it out and pay out enough ? Maybe. But the thing about these lawsuits is that they keep coming and coming. THe way Youtube currently does things, they would NEVER end.

Which leads to this question. Why wouldnt Youtube start policing for copyrights ? If they dont have a license, dont put it on the site. Simple. Takes away 100pct of the risk. Makes everyone happy. Dont you wonder what scares them away from doing this ? Sure they only have 60 people, but hey, one of the biggest challenges of running a business is paying for growth.

If the videos are no longer than 10 minutes each. Thats 600k minutes per day. 10k Hours max. You can hire 1000 people in a datacenter to review videos. 1k people, 10k with overhead per month. (if they buy US rather than overseas) Thats 10mm per month. x 12 months, thats 120mm . And thats if they want to get the videos posted as soon as they are re encoded . Add a delay and the number of employees drops dramatically. Plus, as they license content, the number of videos under license should match the growth in video, so emp count can remain constant.

If User Generated Content is as popular as everyone says it is, whats the risk for them to respect copyright and only host safe content on the sight ?

And for what its worth, everything I just said applies to every video hosting site, not just Youtube.
The copyright shit is going to hit the lawsuit fan. Personally, I think the site that has this handled first is going to be in a great position to leapfrog those who dont. They can be out enabling great user created content and building traffic while everyone else is fighting lawsuits

52 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Youtube and Google

  1. Pingback: What do you do for a living? I sue Google.. — Shooting at Bubbles

  2. It seems to be more beneficial for a large company such as Yahoo and Google to purchase a division that is seemingly an independent business solely in its niche than trying with a \’sub-domain\’ of it, thus YouTube is to bring in more income for Google than a \’sub-doman\’ creation such as Google!Video would.

    Comment by Sport Site -

  3. how about microsoft with yahoo. Can they beat google?

    Unique google Ebooks

    Comment by Nando -

  4. Mark–an invitation to expound: Am running a keynote panel \”The Tipping Point of Media–Are the New Overturniing the Old, or Will the Old Own the New?\” at the 7th Annual Information Industry Summit, 1/30/08 at Cipriani\’s in New York.
    Have Ken Auletta (New Yorker), Mike Barrett (Fox Interactive) and Jim Kelly (Managing Editor, Time, Inc.) You\’d be great to round out the panel, spice things up.
    Let me know,

    jim kollegger
    CEO, Genesys Partners, Inc.

    Comment by Jim Kollegger -


    Comment by BILL MCLAREN -

  6. today announces YouTube Robot 2.0, a tool that enables you to download video from onto your PC, convert it to various formats to watch it when you are on the road on mobile devices like mobile phone, iPod, iPhone, Pocket PC, PSP, or Zune.
    Product page:
    Direct download link:
    Company web-site:

    Comment by matilda2007 -

  7. Mark, do you have next week\’s lottery numbers?

    Comment by John -

  8. Looks like Google made a move. Thoughts Mark?

    Comment by Kyle -

  9. ” i’m a trader and bought 3 days ago,”

    oops. i meant google clearly.

    Comment by brendan -

  10. This is a land-grab, pure and simple. Time to market and velocity of brand-building have become paramount in this space. Relative to Google’s market cap, the acquisition price is almost de minimis. The copyright issues are formidable but solvable–infinitely more so with Google’s resources and experience in the video space. Between video frame recognition technology and your “boots on the ground” screeners approach (they should thank you for the free consulting), content filtering issues aren’t insurmountable.

    Comment by Lee Spieckerman -

  11. all this nonsensical talk about copyrights. wtf? it’s as if copyright law was designed to protect the little guy. c’mon, let’s get back to reality. law is largely created by and for the rich and powerful – therefore, it is designed to benefit the rich and powerful. individuals will have next to zero say in the matter. the big boys are with youtube b/c youtube is helping to move product.

    why is Cuban hatin? doesn’t want to see someone else get rich off of internet video?

    Comment by Peter -

  12. This is a land-grab, pure and simple. Time to market and velocity of brand-building has become paramount in this space. Relative to Google’s market cap, the acquisition price is almost de minimis. The copyright issues are formidable but solvable–more so with Google’s resources and experience in the video space make. Between video frame recognition technology and your “boots on the ground” screeners approach (they should thank you for the free consulting), content filtering issues aren’t insurmountable.

    Comment by Lee Spieckerman -

  13. Ok, so now it’s done, all points are moot. Now the real question is, how will Yahoo and Microsoft respond? Both were trailing YouTube and Myspace (Microsoft really isnt in contention, but can’t ever be counted out) in the online video market, now it seems like Google has another area where it can become a behemouth. And an even bigger question is now that YouTube is a lucrative target, can they sign content deals fast enough to keep the Media companies from busting them in the teeth with lawsuits? I for one am a little sad that we are about to see a complete metamorphais of a small upstart that was barely making a dime to a homogenized MTV-esque commercial for everything from Ford Trucks to deodorant. I think it’s great for the founders, but this innovation through aquisition (or atrition of the ememies) is something that i think ends up hurting the end user. Microsoft really perfected it, but now Google is taking it to the next level.

    Comment by Danny -

  14. 1.65 BILLION….not bad since You Tube has been around all of a year and a half…67 employees…they could have made billions more going public….maybe they agree with Mark and took the quick money before trouble….

    Comment by acetrader -

  15. the deal went through, and wall street is voting with their money that they like it, pushing youtube up 35 points or nearly 10% since the rumours started, as well as up a couple points after hours on this announcement. the buyer in big big purchases usually doesn’t usually rise on the news (the company being bought out does), but Google did. mark cuban is saying serge brinn, who has had more success than all but a few on the planet, and all of wall street is wrong, but mark cuban is right. that’s a tough sell sir, and i’m not buying. in interest of disclosure, i’m a trader and bought 3 days ago, and am up 30 points, looking for 20 more, than another 50. that would be a modest 25% rise from entry (from 400 to 500)

    Comment by brendan -

  16. Crazy morons to the tune of $1.65 billion; as of 430pm Eastern time. Should be fun to watch if nothing else. Anyone want to split a sixer?

    Comment by Ben K. -

  17. Smart buy. Google is looking at what consumers want; after all it is the consumer who is making big media conglomerates jitter, not the companies the consumer reside in. In short, consumer demand is SHOUTING OUT: we want the split second access, we want the entertainment and we want it NOW. This does not fit with the past mind set of scheduling. A network wants to broadcast when they want to broadcast, a consumer wants to watch when they can watchoops, folks, we have a DISCONNECT!

    As for the legal side, anyone that knows about merger and acquisitions can tell you that the purchaser does not always have to take on liabilities in all cases. Furthermore, due diligence teams at Google are pretty aware that internet law and overall structure is in the midst of being built. Believe it or not our world is still in the wild wild west when it comes the complex world of cyber-space…

    Comment by Sandy -

  18. And then again, maybe they just want to buy this little competitor, shut their ass down and gobble up their users into their own video site. Kind of like what Yahoo did with some little Internet broadcasting company in 1999. With the realization of the substantial profits that media companies can make by sharing ad revenues with the site hosting their copyrighted content, I seriously doubt that anyone with this size user base is going to be sued into oblivion. We’re talking 10 minute clips here, not movies or TV shows. Universal went from wanting to sue the dicks off Youtube one month ago to jumping on the ad revenue sharing train today with the likes of Sony. Laws will be rearranged if not changed to protect new media in this milieu. (Yes, I said it. Milieu!) eBay is a prime example. The copyright merchandisor is just as responsible for policing its own crap on the auction site as eBay is. Haven’t seen any successful cases won against eBay from Tiffany’s or Louis Vuitton, have you? As long as they continue to make a serious effort in providing the tools for copyright holders to police their own merchandise, eBay is the good guy. And, IMHO, I think the very same will hold true for video networking sites – as long as they continue to make an effort to help police the policies AND strike deals with the majors – they’re going to fend off questionable legal issues.

    Comment by Jeremy -

  19. Looks like this discussion is already obsolete:

    Google just bought YouTube:

    Comment by PK -

  20. Mark-

    Thanks for explaining the possible motivations and (possibly) unforeseen pitfalls associated with this buy…especially the copyright pitfalls that may manifest themselves in the future.

    It looks like you’ve thought it through…

    You’ve got the capital… I think you should start up a video-sharing service of your own 🙂

    Comment by Zeke -

  21. A few things: 1: If I owned Youtube I would sell! Maybe change is not happeing as fast as the pre-dot com crash but change happens. Remember Netscape? What seems like an invincible online company soon is surpassed by a new upstart. I remember using numerous search engines, in the year 2000? Where are they now?
    2: Content will always be subjected to copyright scrutiny; what about ‘post a secret’? Are all those people that ‘freely’ submitted their darkest secrets still excited to see them not only online but now in book-form? Initially, people like to have a few minutes of fame such as seeing their photo in the newspaper, taken at some event they attended. They even ask if they can ‘buy’ an extra print to send to their families. But once they see that same photo being used to actually ‘promote’ the event they switch gears and either think they are being taken advantage of, and sue or think they can make a case and sue. Companies that keep it simple and don’t exploit the user’s content will be safe. For awhile…

    Comment by sawsee -

  22. FYI — YouTube just signed content deals with CBS, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG. Looks like the talk of YouTube’s legal demise was strikingly premature.

    Comment by Brian -

  23. Google is smart. It is investing in everything it could to dominate the broadband ad spaces !!!

    Google also in $230 MILLION investment for BROADBAND over Powerlines !!!


    Comment by broadband power line -

  24. The media companies including NBC should get their heads out of their asses. How else do you think the 18-49 age group flock to their flagship programs? Helloooooooo, how else do you think we get buzzed

    Comment by YouTuber -

  25. this is a good deal for Google. Imho I don’t think either pary would be cheated in any manner here. it is square and perfect for Google to pay $1.6 for! my only concern would be whether Google will get good ROI from the deal!

    Comment by Ian -

  26. In new news, YouTube and Vivendi have reached a deal::

    Comment by PK -

  27. While people are clicking on the copyrighted material, the news stories, success stories and new business opportunities in this field seem to be coming from the independents.

    In otherwords, there is a change in thinking going on here and the Paris Hilton superstardom is becoming watered down, however slowly, while people are looking towards what is new and exciting that can rise up from the fringes.

    Apparently Amazon makes more money selling long tail books in single numbers than they do from their most popular sellers.

    Thus, for Google to take YouTube is for Google to OWN online video, just as they OWN online search.

    There is a lot more going on at YouTube than just copyrighted material. There are people there.

    Comment by Drew -

  28. It seems you may be right that policing is the only way to shut down legal issues… however, it’s not nearly as big of a human-intensive problem as you were calculating.

    By using hashing and other tricks, a few good coders could make nearly all violating videos be detected instantly, so the size of the problem would be much smaller. As less and less copyrighted videos make it through the cracks, people will be far less inclined to even try.

    Comment by Sean -

  29. Mark,
    Interesting pts. I think one solution (not the only one) for YouTube is to buy a small social network that differs from MySpace and Google, but combines both and grow it. Use it as a platform to grab a niche market. No one would see it coming. The new user base would be ecstatic and by the time the law suits start flying they bought themselves 6 mos to a year with this new audience (by overwhelming them, happily) to figure out the legal side of things.
    I have some other ideas, we should talk. Thanks for your time.

    Comment by Joe Allen -

  30. Just like MySpace, YouTube has a website that is in efffect owned and controlled by the general public. I’m guessing the fear of losing web traffic as a result of policing copyrighted content is what keeps them from ramping up security on their website. They obviously work hard to keep graphic porn off the site, why not work just as hard to tag other content?

    When the inmates (viewers) run the asylum, you can get yourself in deep Sh*t.

    Comment by Clark -

  31. Very interesting assessment, Mark. It looks like we’ll know whether or not the deal is happening within a matter of days.

    Techcrunch is reporting that the deal could be announced this week:

    Comment by Kat Jacobs -

  32. Personally I feel that given that GoogleVideo and YouTube are direct competitors in this sector right now – there are some anticompetitive issues here.

    If Google buys out YouTube as planned I am concerned about the direction which YouTube will head in. If I had to choose at the moment, I’d rather use YouTube than GoogleVideo. That’s a personal preference but I find it easier and less cumbersome to use.

    But if Google get a hold of it, it may get taken down the wrong path. But hey, Google have done some cool stuff (GoogleEarth for instance) .. so maybe it won’t be such a bad thing.

    Comment by Sean Williams -

  33. You know what I love about this blog?

    I love that you are honest when presenting yourself. You don’t try to make things sound too smart, you swear if you have to – this is really cool to read for someone who is 22 and doesn’t want to be a typical suit in a corporate world – it is like a look into what the OTHER way is like – your own way, not the force fed typical way.

    Thanks man, very good stuff.

    Comment by Dennis -

  34. I think the law of big numbers is starting to affect GOOG and this could be the first sign of their growth slowing down.

    Comment by WallStreetSelect -

  35. Google may be going into Video Search in a big way, YouTube may get a new Searchbar.

    Comment by paul -

  36. Mark –

    You are, quite obviously, much smarter than you look on YouTube TV shows.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins -

  37. “sue me and you’re not getting a virgin” (quoted from dr haeberle today on an m&a simulation)
    that’s likely what google’s position is as they look at the potential acquisition.

    Comment by JL -

  38. Mark I’m thinking if this deal is real, Google solves the bandwidth problem for YouTube. The copyright thing I haven’t heard as much on, and you do raise some good points. However I think there’s enough draw to the original content to sustain YouTube even with all the copyright stuff taken way. Obviously full on movies or tv shows have got to go.

    But maybe YouTube can somehow keep the grey area stuff like music videos and commercials. The entertainment companies should be thanking YouTube for showing old 80s videos and commercials from the 70s, frankly.

    Comment by Webomatica -

  39. Mark,

    You make some good points, but I disagree with your assessment about Google being “moronic” to buy YouTube. YouTube is the fastest growing site in the history of the web. Plain and simple, zero to top 10 in a year. Owning that for $1.6B is probably worth the risk.

    YouTube is decidedly NOT Napster. There are videos up there that could certaily be construed as copyright violations but they are increasingly policed by the YouTube community and are methodically taken down per DMCA. My hunch is that the vast majority of their traffic is coming from user-generated video with which YouTube takes and aggressive stance in their TOS (very similar to what we did with Webshots).

    Their position is increasingly strengthened with every marquee distribution deal they do AND every instance of marketers for marquee copyright holders who on their own are using YouTube to market films, tv shows, etc.

    Eventually, YouTube probably should be more proactive in policing. With Webshots, we were able to review 500,000 to 1 million photo uploads per day for pornography and blatant copyright issues. Obviously, EBay has managed to tackle difficult policing issues on a large scale as well.

    That said, my primary issue with a $1.6B price tag is the lack of revenue, because right now, every video shown by YouTube costs them money, period.

    So, back to the deal. I think “bold” would be accurate. “Crazy” or “moronic” and you are losing credibility as a level-headed analyst.

    Comment by Narendra -

  40. Mark is right on target saying Google would be crazy (moronic) to buy YouTube, but brilliant to do an exclusive advertising deal.

    Why buy a lawsuit when you can just make an exclusive advertising deal and get everything you want…more traffic on which to sell ads?

    I wrote a blog on this today with lessons I have learned over the years from many acquisition discussions…on both sides of the table.

    Comment by Don Dodge -

  41. I feel a bit hestitant to say this publically, but this whole “leak” sounds fishy to me. Perhaps it’s legit, but it is conceivable that this rumor has been planted in the media on purpose with the intent to drive up bidding and/or force people on the sidelines to rashly jump in. In particular, I could see it trying to bait Viacom to make an offer since Viacom has several times over and over that it will not allow another Internet hot property to pass them by again.

    Think about it. Seems very convienent that it was leaked on a Friday to give people the weekend to get worked up into a lather about the whole thing. Plus it seems like the “source” of the rumor was from TechCrunch – which I enjoy the blog – but it seems like the WSJ referenced TechCrunch and then NYT referenced the WSJ article. So I’m not sure how many original sources there were to this story, just one media outlet referencing the other.

    We’ll see how it pans out, but I’m suprised that there isn’t more debate about the authenticity of this rumor.

    Comment by Chris D -

  42. Mark, I really hope you read this message in particular because I think you are in the wrong on this one. How can you say that Google is crazy for buying YouTube? There is one very big element here you are ignoring, and it is technology. Technology that knows something that is copyrighted from something that isn’t. Do you remember the early days of Google Video? When Google used to record live television and make it searchable using telecaption? What makes you think that they ever stopped recording ALL of live television? You see, by recording ALL of live television, they create a database, and any video uploaded could — and most likely will — go through a filter that automatically detects if this video is a COPY of a live TV feed recorded by Google. You see, Google is quite possibly the company with the most advanced A.I. on the planet. And the fact that you cannot comprehend this bewilders me.

    But hey, you’re entitled to your opinion.

    Comment by Mariano -

  43. Rebuttal to Mark Cuban: Some Thoughts on Youtube and Google

    I read Mark’s blog posting Some Thoughts on Youtube and Google and I disagree with Mark’s view. Mark believes that Google (Nasdaq GOOG) would be moronic to buy YouTube. I say they would be moronic not to buy.

    There is only one #1 player in any given market as Internet entrepreneurs and investors have discovered with the outsized valuation given the Google. Leaders like MySpace and YouTube deserve significant premiums because they not only are synonymous with the product being delivered (MySpace/social networking, YouTube/video sharing, Google/search), but users gravitate towards those services because of their reputation. It takes no convincing to get a user to try MySpace, YouTube, or Google because chances are someone they know already uses it – and recommends it.

    An advertising deal with YouTube would solidify Google as a #1 in video ads, but a buyout would solidify Google as the leader in Web 2.0 video.

    Pop Quiz (Multiple Choice). Select the best answer below.
    What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be

    * A) WPP Group Plc (selling advertising) (Nasdaq WPPGY)?
    * B) Viacom, Inc. (broadcasting content) (Nasdaq VIAB)?
    * C) Comcast Corporation (the leader in cable television, content and delivery) (Nasdaq CMCSA)?

    Comment by Mr Wave Theory -

  44. Most expensive domain purchase ever: redirect to I’m serious: If you’ve got the cash available to completely buy out a competitor why wouldn’t you?

    Also, Mark’s point is valid.. until now, no one has been given a signifigant amount of money for a site that hosts user-generated media. Those dollar signs start to look like a litigious bullseye almost overnight.

    Fox brought on Myspace Video after the buy, Google has been pretty good about taking down/not approving licensed content (read: tv shows, movies, etc). This deal will turn a corner that won’t be pretty for the whole industry.

    Comment by Chris -

  45. Maybe I’m missing something here, but you keep talking about how YouTube is going to get sued as soon as they get deep pockets, but doesn’t Google already have the same issue with their Google video service? How many of the clips uploaded there are karaoke versions of NSync? Better yet isnt’ MySpace AKA Fox also hosting their fair share of copyright infringement. How is are they not doomed to failure from these “fake” lawsuits and why haven’t we seen any filed to date?

    When the BetaMax first came out content owners liked to point out that people could use it to pirate films, but the courts ruled that it had significant non-infringing purposes. There may be quite a few bad apples on MySpace, Google Video and YouTube, but unlike Napster there is a lot of user generated content there as well. As long as YouTube keeps taking down the videos I don’t see how they are anymore at risk then the company that is providing them with Web Hosting services.

    Comment by Davis Freeberg -

  46. Just move the business to Asia where copyright law is ignored.

    Comment by fast eddie -

  47. I still think that you are right Mark and that You Tube is a bad buy. The legal issues are to great to take on. I think this is the turning point for Google. They are sarting the Microsoft – Yahoo – IBM downturn and the move to purchase You Tube will be remembered as when they headed south.

    Not to say that Google is not a phenemenon that will continue to be great, But the culture has changed and the dominance has gotten to them…..

    What do you think?

    Comment by Levi -

  48. Thanks for the thoughts Mark,

    I agree, Google gets eyeballs and oodles of stock, YouTube gets dollars to pay for bandwidth and legal fees and all the listener attention dedicated to long tail content will be pushed aside by short head content. Then the Internet becomes network TV and YouTube fades away.

    Comment by Randy Blumhagen -

  49. Hanan,
    Oh, the movie has gone.

    Comment by kenji mori -

  50. ummm … I’m assuming you realize that google video and youtube are competitors. if so, why would google make a deal with youtube, rather than tweaking it’s own video service and try to increase thier market share. You tube btw, is not the market leader, MySpace Video is.

    Comment by JAm -

  51. For more on YouTube and Copyright watch this movie:

    Comment by Hanan Cohen -

  52. All Google is going to do is to throw a Google search-bar on the YouTube site, and with the traffic generated from that toolbar they will pay for their investment within a year. They’ll keep YouTube a separate entity, this way when YouTube gets sued to oblivion, Google will just be a shareholder, and won’t be exposed to the liability. The traffic + PR generated from this will be worth $1.6B to Google, without a doubt.

    Comment by Steven -

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