On the one hand, video sharing sites like You Tube offer fantastic viral marketing opportunities. On the other, video sharing sites like You Tube offer fantastic video piracy opportunities.
So, the billion dollar question has been for the last 3-5 years, how do you make money out of online video, when the majority of your audience think file sharing is fine ('we'll be paying to go to the cinema the first time round' and other excuses), content appears freely no sooner than it receives a theatrical release, and tracking content round the world wide web is so hard?
A new company is aiming to offer a solution to institutions whose bread and butter work is the production of moving image content. The premise is simple: take copyrighted content, embed metadata (the information about information, or tags as they're known to most of us), turn it into any number of streaming formats, host it, syndicate it to other sites, like presumably, You Tube et al, generate reports about whose using it, then make a charge for providing (a) the means of tracking and (b) the means of somehow stopping pirates.
The company in question is called My Video Rights and I'm interested in it because it's attracted two heavyweights of the British media: Kelvin MacKenzie was the controversial editor of the Sun newspaper, one of the founders of influential if barmy cable TV station L!ve TV (the one with the Person of Restricted Growth, bouncing on a trampoline while reading the weather), and a man who tends to become involved in edgy media projects. The other is Peter Bazalgette, whose TV company Bazal I worked for happily for several years (Groundforce, Changing Rooms etc). Neither man is likely to have put their name to a venture they think has a small chance of success.
However, will it work, is the question I keep asking myself? Certainly, there needs to be some way for media institutions to monetize their online video assets. However, I can't help but think of small drops and large oceans when I try to imagine how this will actually work to the point of reaching a critical mass.
At a time when advertising revenues have gone through the floor, the uptake of online video by audiences continues to grow, even if it does so at a reduced rate. Trying to square the need to raise revenue from someone, even if it's not the audiences themselves, but perhaps advertisers keen to see embedded links in video, or at the least some sort of metric data that proves eyeballs are eyeing content, is one heck of a challenge.
I wish the creators of My Video Rights all the very best. I am certain they will not be the last institution to attempt to crack this elusive media nut, but it would be great to see a British company leading the way.