Originally posted on the Broadcast Law Blog.
According to press reports in the Wall St. Journal and elsewhere this morning, Hearst-Argyle and Google have signed an agreement that will allow Google to post videos on YouTube from Hearst-Argyle TV stations, with both parties sharing in resulting ad revenues. According to these reports, each of the 29 Hearst-Argyle TV stations will have their own channels on YouTube, with five stations to begin posting videos immediately. This arrangement is in contrast to the $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google for copyright infringement of Viacom's content on YouTube. The decision also serves as a reminder that broadcasters own only certain content that they produce, and that they need to be mindful of copyright concerns when entering into agreements such as this one.
As people begin to spend more time watching video over the Internet and fewer hours watching conventional television, it makes sense for broadcasters to utilize that shift in viewing habits to their advantage. Instead of trying to fight the Internet, Hearst-Argyle may be taking the smarter approach in figuring out how to monetize its content on that media, and perhaps the end result may be to attract more viewers to its broadcast station as well.
Of course, copyright is still a very relevant concern, since broadcasters can only license content that they own, such as local news and sports programming. Most network and syndicated programming is licensed by stations subject to restrictions that would prohibit posting of such programs on the Internet. However, locally produced shows, such as news and weather as well as any talk shows or sporting events produced in-house may well be owned by the station and can be distributed over the Internet as well as over the air. As the Hearst deal demonstrates, there may be opportunities to increase revenues for local programming by licensing it for the Internet. Even if Internet transmission does not bring in additional revenue, the goodwill earned by a station providing content to YouTube could result in higher broadcast viewership. In any event, cooperation with Internet providers such as YouTube or other video websites may be the wave of the future, particularly as multiple digital video streams are developed with even more locally produced content.