Everyone's Gunning For YouTube

The focus and experimentation on IPTV is switching away from watching short clips on YouTube to watching full length shows on downloadable TV applications like Joost, Babelgum, Veoh TV , Netflix (which now has a Silverlight application) and others. YouTube continues to grow, but people are not looking to find full length TV shows there.

That isn’t stopping the competitors from trying to get a piece of the action, though.

YouTube has a slew of direct competitors, but the network effect kicked in long ago for YouTube and its unlikely that loose copyright policies or higher quality videos are going to make any kind of dent in their market share. But the networks are still goggling that $1.65 billion price tag for YouTube, and they want their pound of flesh.

Competitors Running In Circles

Hitwise published some statistics earlier this week showing that YouTube has 60% market share of the U.S. video sharing sites – they have more visitors than all of their competitors combined. They continue to grow at a fast clip even after the networks started massive litigation against them.

Comscore worldwide data is nearly identical, showing YouTube with a 66% market share. See the chart to the left for the side-by-side numbers.

It’s clear that the market is probably big enough for a few competitors to be successful, but no one is knocking YouTube off the thrown any time soon.

Clown Co. Still Clowning Around

In March we saw the dramatic introduction of a new service, backed by News Corp. (owner of MySpace) and NBC. They dubbed it “NBC Universal and News Corporation’s Online Video Joint Venture,” which isn’t exactly catchy. When rumors started that Google execs were referring to it as “Clown Co.” the name stuck. Until they name this thing, there’s really nothing else to refer to it as.

Lack of a name hasn’t stopped them from making some bold steps, though. This week they named Jason Kilar, a Harvard MBA and former Amazon executive, to lead the unit. And now there are reports saying they’ve been out trying to raise $100 million in venture capital on a billion dollar valuation. YouTube raised just a fraction of that.

To be fair, Clown Co. isn’t supposed to be a direct competitor to YouTube, and has promised a more distributed approach. And they’ll have (legally obtained) content from both NBC and News Corp. properties, a big advantage over competitors. We’ll have to wait and see once it launches. But the naming problem, as well as the fact that the parent companies described it as “the largest advertising platform on earth” in a media call, suggest it is off to a very bad start.

News Corp. Places Another Bet

News Corp. which owns MySpace, is placing a second bet beyond Clown Co. This week they announced the launch of MySpace TV, a direct competitor to YouTube. MySpace has been collecting video clips from users for well over a year, and their recent $300 million acquisition of Photobucket adds more to the library.

Having the MySpace property behind MySpace TV is a great competitive advantage, although Google’s search engine is behind YouTube, which more than evens the playing field. And since MySpace has shown a willingness to block third party videos if there is even a hint of advertising, YouTube may, over time, find it can’t do much there.

For that reason, MySpace TV is the biggest direct threat to YouTube. But in my opinion it won’t be enough to knock them from the top spot even in the long run. YouTube is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream user’s head as the site to go to see user generated videos and copyrighted video clips, and they are backed by Google. No one is taking that from them any time soon.