It’s no more “Lazy Sundays” for YouTube.
In October, a year after successfully negotiating a distribution agreement with NBC, the network yanked its content — more than a hundred videos, including the popular Saturday Night Live rap spoof, “Lazy Sundays” — from the Google-owned site. Now NBC has its online videos exclusively on Hulu, a new joint venture with News Corp.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft.)
In other words, what NBC wants is MeTube.
It’s not the only broadcast company that’s left YouTube to create its own sandbox over the past year: Viacom is giving exclusive content to newcomer Joost, and AOL-Time Warner is backing Veoh. Several major companies and some smaller upstarts are hoping to make YouTube as irrelevant as Facebook made Friendster — or at least carve out a solid niche in online video.
They may yet have a chance too.
According to the most recent numbers from comScore, Google Sites (which includes YouTube) accounted for more than 28 percent of online video views in September — far from a lock on the market. Though there’s still a bit of catch-up to do: Fox Interactive Media, encompassing sites like AmericanIdol.com and FoxSports.com, came in a distant second with just more than 4 percent. Here, a look at the upstarts getting into the online video game.
NBC and Fox, longtime squabblers with YouTube, wanted more control over their online content. In 2007 they created Hulu, which launched in October in beta form. It is expected to officially go live soon.
What It Carries: Full-length current shows from NBC and Fox (including The Office and Heroes) as well as from MGM and Sony Pictures Television. The final version will have select movies from 20th Century Fox and popular older television series.
Major Success Factor: Advertising commitments from General Motors and other major companies bode well for the site.
Tech entrepreneur Dmitry Shapiro started Veoh in 2004. Users download the software onto their computers and save shows a la TiVo — except they don’t have to wait for the shows to air on television first.
What It Carries: Full-length shows from CBS, the CW, Turner Classic Movies, and other AOL-Time Warner networks as well as movies from Lions Gates Films, and original Veoh shows. Five-minute previews let you sample the selection.
Major Success Factors: The download requirement may not appeal to a generation used to click-and-play. And a new lawsuit by Universal Music for copyright infringement could be enough to take Veoh off the air.
One of the oldest YouTube competitors, iFilm was started by a private independent filmmaker in 1997. MTV Networks bought it in 2005 for $49 million. At the time, iFilm was delivering more than 30 million streams per month.
What It Carries: iFilm has become the online home of MTV’s Spike TV channel; shows like Manswers and Hooters Swimsuit Pageant have crowded out the more highbrow content iFilm used to carry (trailers, shorts, and movies including Theo van Gogh’s Submission).
Major Success Factor: iFilm has a well-defined demographic — 18-to-34-year-old men — from the cable channel.
Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis produced file-sharing Kazaa and Internet-calling software Skype, and then, in 2006, they started work on a peer-to-peer video-sharing network, inspired by those earlier projects.
What It Carries: Officially licensed shows from CBS, National Geographic, and Viacom, as well as good but canceled programs from various company vaults. Plus, better-looking video than YouTube.
Major Success Factors: More than one million beta testers have been using the program. A limited partnership with Fox Broadcasting — likely dependent on Fox’s progress with Hulu — is rumored to be in the works.
Kevin Flynn created the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” video, now a YouTube staple, but never made any money from it. Last year he launched VuMe, which pays directors based on the number of views their work gets.
What It Carries: Everything from cute animal videos and karaoke hijinks to serious political commentary and short indie films. In other words, what you’d find on YouTube.
Major Success Factors: It is the first video site to use this business model. Barely a year old, it’s unclear if VuMe can sustain paying $3 for every 1,000 hits.
Nonprofit veteran Thom Wallace and P.R. expert Chace Warmington decided to create an environmentally-focused video Web site. The beta version launched in August. As of December, the most viewed video was watched 2,500 times.
What It Carries: Videos on going green and footage of the latest oil spill, all provided by users; no network affiliations.
Major Success Factor: Many of emPivot’s videos can be found on any major cable-news Web site — if not on YouTube — but never has green-related footage been all in one place.
Los Angeles natives Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab started Channel 101 as a monthly festival where independent shorts would be judged by the audience. The four-year-old Web site is an online extension.
What It Carries: Filmmakers upload brief, self-funded videos, including some featuring popular comedians like Drew Carey and Jack Black. Based on audience reception for a piece, directors are asked to film another short.
Major Success Factor: Many of the videos are made by entertainment professionals. The Web site is supported by its real-world counterpart.