News Corp, NBC May Announce Distributed YouTube Competitor Today; Google Scoffs

There have been rumors of a TV network led joint venture to compete with YouTube for months – the first time we heard it was just a couple of days after the first rumor of Google’s acquisition of the company. Since then, we’ve heard that discussions stalled as one partner or another pulled out of the group.

The rumors are now back with a vengeance. The L.A. Times is now reporting that a deal may be announced soon, and this was confirmed to us directly as well by a source close to the deal. An announcement could come as early as Thursday.

It seems clear that News Corp. and NBC are involved, with Viacom and Sony as possible players as well. This won’t be a direct YouTube competitor in that the focus will be on distribution of content to third party sites: deals may already be in place with Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and News Corp.’s MySpace. There may or may not be a dedicated website for this content as well.

So, to sum up, here’s what we know so far: This is happening and a press release is planned for as early as Thursday. We don’t know who beyond News Corp. and NBC is involved. The actual launch of the service would be summer 2007 or later.

I think this will get a crazy amount of attention, then probably launch very late. Joint ventures are notoriously difficult to manage, and adding third party distribution partners to the mix will add complexity. And of course the technology needs to work, and these companies are not now for building web based applications. Google doesn’t seem to be particularly worried, either: execs are reportedly referring to the project as “Clown Co.”