NBC: We Get Web 2.0… Sike!


Remember the SNL clip, “Lazy Sunday,” where two dudes from the Long Island comedy troop Lonely Island hit the streets and blew up a hip-hop trip to go see The Chronicle of Narnia? I posted about it two months ago with a link to the youtube.com hosted clip, and literally thanked NBC and SNL for finding local talent and participating in the share and share alike culture of Web 2.0. Apparently, NBC really doesn’t get it.

The New York Times
A Video Clip Goes Viral, and a TV Network Wants to Control It

When a video clip goes “viral,” spreading across the Web at lightning speed, it can help rocket its creators to stardom. Alas, the clip can also generate work for corporate lawyers.

As anyone with an Internet connection and a love of cupcakes can tell you, “Lazy Sunday” is a tongue-in-cheek rap video starring Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg of “Saturday Night Live.” NBC first broadcast the video, a two-and-a-half-minute paean to New York’s Magnolia Bakery, Google Maps and C. S. Lewis, on Dec. 17.

Fans immediately began putting copies of the video online. On one free video-sharing site, YouTube (www.youtube.com), it was watched a total of five million times. NBC soon made the video available as a free download from the Apple iTunes Music Store.

Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, said she contacted NBC Universal about working out a deal to feature NBC clips, including “Lazy Sunday,” on the site. NBC Universal responded early this month with a notice asking YouTube to remove about 500 clips of NBC material from its site or face legal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. YouTube complied last week. “Lazy Sunday” is still available for free viewing on NBC’s Web site, and costs $1.99 on iTunes.

Julie Summersgill, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal, said the company meant no ill will toward fan sites but wanted to protect its copyrights. “We’re taking a long and careful look at how to protect our content,” she said.

YouTube and others in the new wave of video-sharing sites have so far managed to avoid major legal problems even though they often carry copyrighted material without permission.

“This is an example of the copyright troubles that are waiting for YouTube, Google Video and all the other video hosting services that rely on user-posted content,” said Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Several online commentators noted that NBC’s response to YouTube, while legally justified, may have been short-sighted. The online popularity of “Lazy Sunday” has been credited with reviving interest in “Saturday Night Live” at a time when it is in need of some buzz.

Ms. Supan said VH1 and other television and movie producers were increasingly putting their own clips, trailers and music videos on YouTube in hopes of jump-starting their own viral phenomena.

“We got e-mails from college students, and a lot of them said it’s the ‘Lazy Sunday’ clip that turned them on to potentially watching ‘S.N.L.’ again,” she said.

Exactly. I hadn’t watched SNL in years and that skit actually brought my eyeballs back to NBC. How much profit is enough? Don’t they realize that the viewers who watched the skit the night it aired represented the cut-off point of ROI before the blogosphere, Kazaa, etc. started passing it around? For the last two months, they’ve received extra eyeballs because of the video-sharing, which has put money in their pockets directly or indirectly. This is the thanks we get?

Dumb… like a stump. Instead of busting out the lawyers, why not take these lemons and make some lemonade. Here’s an idea for all of you suits in NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. land:

  • Work out a deal with YouTube, Google and whomever else so that you receive a fair cut of the ad revenue from any page with your copyrighted content being displayed
  • In turn, YouTube, Google, etc. can evolve their upload interfaces to include a “channel” option
  • If I upload something taken from, say, NBC, I simply choose “NBC” in a pulldown menu and upload the video
  • Once verified as an NBC property, post-upload, the *additional revenue* of click-through ads goes straight into NBC’s pocket

Multiply this scenario by the potential number of unbundled clips, contributing users and video services over a continuum of expanding users and I think you just might be able to afford that ski trip to Aspen this year.


UPDATE: A Boing Boing reader tells the following story:

YouTube user “aretired” posted a clip from Thursday’s CBS Evening News showcasing Jason McElwain, the autistic highschool basketball player who scored 6-3 pointers in the final four minutes of the game. The video clip shot up to #15 in alltime viewings on YouTube with 1.5 million hits in just three days—then, it was suddenly and inexplicably pulled.

User “aretired” reposted the clip and was again pulled within a day, still no explanations.

CBS sent DMCA complaints for not just that McElwain clip, but all 11 of the user’s other CBS-related clips that had up till now gone fairly unnoticed, by anyone. And, despite their huffing and puffing and pulling over a 2-minute feel-good piece of the year, you can still catch your fill of Oprah, Letterman, Degeneres, Dr. Phil and other CBS content at YouTube.

Do they want us to hate them?