I didn’t expect to write about the Britney-Spears-at-the-VMAs fiasco, but I’m doing so because of a brilliant entry in the Machinist blog, run by Salon tech writer Farhad Manjoo. In it, Manjoo explains why the video of Spears’ much-maligned performance has been so hard to find. You’d expect to see the video on YouTube, but it has been pulled. That’s because Viacom, which owns VMA broadcaster MTV, is suing YouTube for copyright infringement.
What makes this story interesting is that Google, the parent company of YouTube, floated a plan to air commercials during videos and give half the profits to the content providers, such as Viacom. So far, it’s a no-go.
But the Britney Spears video has been such a must-see that a gazillion people have been Googling “britney spears vma video.” And what they saw in the right-hand column (since taken down) is an ad from Viacom, pointing to the video’s broadcast on MTV’s website.
Here’s Manjoo’s kicker:
In other words, Google would have paid Viacom for letting the VMA video go to YouTube. Instead, in order to keep the video on its own site, Viacom ran an ad on Google pointing to MTV.
Let me say that again: In pursuit of complete control of its content, Viacom would rather pay Google than take Google's money. Viacom shareholders, are you listening to this?