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CNN, AOL launch new video services – trouble for startups?

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Two Time Warner sites are making serious moves into online video. CNN is expected to formally launch today a system for collecting user generated content, with video at the center of its strategy. The basics are already up at CNN Exchange. The system will be powered by Blip.tv – quite a deal to land for them. A CNet story this weekend said that war footage from Lebanon found on YouTube was a big part of the inspiration for Exchange, but you have to assume this has been in the works for some time. CNN Exchange will of course be about submission more than upload or sharing; I’ll be curious to see what percentage of submitted videos appear on the site. CNN will retain non-exclusive ownership of the submitted content and does not appear to plan compensation for content providers.

In related news the New York Times reported this morning that AOL, where many services will become free on Wednesday, will launch a video service this week. Commercial free downloads-to-own will start at $1.99 and various free offerings will join AOL’s video search for content across the web.

Since CNN and AOL are Time Warner companies one question seems to be whether any cross pollination in video strategy will go on.

Another question worth asking though is: does this mean certain death for the countless video sharing and downloading startups coming online? Probably not. Each will have its own unique feel, likely all with far less editorial control than these two big players.

In the end the dichotomy remains the same: try to get past the corporate editors and into big media in exchange for massive exposure or on the other hand try to create something compelling that will go viral across countless other channels.

CNN is likely to never allow unmediated upload of content on to its site because it’s such an uncomfortable position to be in from a branding perspective for companies born in the media-as-gatekeeper era. It’s hard to imagine CNN letting in enough video to offer site visitors the kind of endless clicking around that YouTube offers. Not to mention that talking dogs aren’t going to make it to CNN. YouTube minus talking dogs (and other copyrighted content) vs. sites like CNN plus user video would be a whole other equation.

I imagine that the glut of video services online is a much bigger barrier to effective entry than is the launch of services by these big players. These will probably always be two very different sorts of sites.

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