Google Bets on Syndication as a Video Strategy

Deal With Viacom Includes Shared Ad Revenue

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NEW YORK ( -- Google's latest bet is on syndication. Today the web giant unveiled another video play that makes it a distributor of content, with the potential to give small- and medium-size websites access to mainstream content from the world's largest media companies.
Google is distributing three MTV shows, including 'Laguna Beach.'
Google is distributing three MTV shows, including 'Laguna Beach.'

Small but telling
It's a relatively small but perhaps telling deal: Google has partnered with Viacom to distribute video from three MTV Networks shows -- "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Laguna Beach: The Real O.C." and the "MTV Video Music Awards."

While the deal, to be tested later this month, only involves three of the cable company's programs, it indicates Google's interest trying to become a video syndicator. Google will distribute the Viacom-created video with advertising sold by Viacom. The revenue from the advertising that accompanies the video will be split among the site featuring the clip, Viacom and Google. Google hopes to strike similar deals with other content creators.

With this deal, Google is moving down a path already established by companies like Brightcove, Roo and Revver, which have exploited like-minded models.

Partnering with mainstream
The deal also indicates Google is interested in partnering with mainstream media companies legitimately; the company has come under fire in the past for capitalizing on content without sharing the monetary benefits with content companies.

For Viacom, the move is essentially a baby step in a struggle many major content creators are facing: How much should they cede control of program distribution? Major media companies have watched in the past year as online video-sharing sites such asYouTube continue to gain popularity. From YouTube's success, it's increasingly obvious that internet users will find ways to get access to and sometimes distribute the video content they want -- whether it's legal or not.

In an attempt to keep some control over where its content is viewed, the deal allows Viacom to approve every site to which Google will distribute MTV Networks clips. One criterion Viacom will look for is those sites that can generate traffic in the 100,000-plus-a-month range.

Rotating clips
Additionally, site owners have to accept a rotating, programmed series of clips that Viacom will change on a daily basis. Site owners will not be able to simply link to a single program snippet -- say a certain artist's performance at the Video Music Awards. Sites will have to be willing to accept whatever clips Viacom has chosen to air that day.

Still, the Google deal marks the first time MTV Networks shows will be distributed on an ad-supported basis outside MTVN's stable of sites. It expects the clips will also promote programming on its linear channels.

As part of this deal, MTV Networks is also selling download-to-own versions of several of its shows through Google Video for $1.99 each. MTV Networks struck a similar deal last week with AOL.
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