Big Media piles on YouTube — for Now

Following Viacom’s public rebuke of YouTube, other big media players have joined in the slap-fest, in methods either very public (like this tirade from NBC’s Jeff Zucker) or in an aside, like a subtle dig delivered by Disney exec Preston Padden at a small telecom conference earlier this week.

Like any good lobbying front, there is a consistent theme in the complaints: If YouTube can filter out porn, then it can sure as hell filter out our copyrighted material. In fact, Disney’s Padden said just that, without the expletive, in a presentation Sunday at the Silicon Flatirons conference in Boulder, Colo.

“Somehow, YouTube has figured out a way to keep porn off [its site],” Padden said. But a short bit later, in an impromptu interview, he admitted that “other people at Disney” were talking to YouTube about possible ways to work together. Behind all the bluster, it’s probably a safe bet the other big media players are too. Because as we’ve said before, when it comes to online video traffic there’s YouTube and not much else, at least for now.

And yes, we’re aware that Viacom has talked about beefing up its own online offerings, but forgive me if we aren’t quite ready to call old media providers a force to be reckoned with. It’s got to be maddening to the network honchos when something designed by a small group of techno-nerds becomes as popular as YouTube. But how many times have we heard about how big media is going to dominate the Internet with their killer brands and content? And who among them will be brave enough to cut across network lines and offer real user content, or content from other big players? As the reportedly stalled negotiations seem to show, it ain’t as easy to build a YouTube killer as you might think.

That’s why even one of the big old lions, Sumner Redstone, is also saying publicly he’s ready to deal. Here he tells the Hollywood Reporter’s Germany bureau that content pulled down can easily be put back up if the price is right:

If YouTube would come along and offer us a deal that is commensurate with the value of the programming that we spend so many millions and so much time to create, we would certainly look at that.

So we guess it’s not really about the filtering after all. Just about where the money filters down to. And since Google is now taking steps to find more money in YouTube, maybe all will be well before long.