• Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications

    Many of you know that Google has recently begun distributing short animated videos from Seth MacFarlane (creator of TV's "Family Guy") to a wide network of sites that previously only received ads from Google, through their participation in AdSense. The company dubs this the "Google Content Network" (GCN for short), and from my vantage point, it has a lot of potential and implications for other players in the video distribution value chain. Yesterday, I spoke to Alexandra Levy, Google's Director of Branded Entertainment, and the point person for driving this initiative.

    The first thing that resonates for me about GCN is that Google's vision for it harmonizes perfectly with my concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy." VideoNuze readers know that last March I introduced the SVE concept to capture a trend that I was noticing: an ecosystem was forming to distribute broadband video widely across the Internet, in contrast to the traditional, narrower distribution model.

    Alex echoed the SVE, saying that in her many conversations with content producers, finding an audience is their top challenge. Great content, unwatched, is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest when nobody is around to hear it.

    So enter GCN, which Google rightly sees as a "media distribution platform." To understand its implications fully, you have to evaluate its potential to all relevant constituencies: Users get great updated content served to them at the sites they already visit. Those sites benefit from offering premium content, while also receiving a revenue share on the accompanying ads. The content provider benefits from leveraging Google's vast AdSense network to have video "pushed" to relevant audiences, increasing viewership and engagement. And advertisers' brands benefit from adjacency to premium content that is sought after and compelling.

    Of course, last but not least, Google benefits from being the intermediary in this whole process. We all know from Google's massive success in web search that being the intermediary in a model where all constituent interests are neatly aligned creates near-infinite economic value. While Alex concedes the MacFarlane video (which is sponsored by Burger King and was brokered by Media Rights Capital) is still an "experiment," GCN sure does seem to bear a lot of resemblance to Google's traditional search model in the alignment of constituent interests.

    Another twist here is that users who click for more video are driven back to MacFarlane's YouTube channel (already the 69th most subscribed channel, with almost 70K subscribers), which drives habituation, a key lever for ongoing video success as any network TV executive will admit. In this light, GCN gives Google a way of finally tying its powerful AdSense engine to YouTube. I'm not suggesting that Google is sweating the ROI on its $1.6 billion YouTube acquisition, but GCN surely looks like a way to move YouTube far beyond its roots as everyone's favorite UGC aggregator.

    Alex is quick to point out that GCN does not budge Google from its often-stated position that it is not a content creator. Rather, it's using GCN to connect brands, content producers and users. If that connecting process drives audiences and generates revenues for content producers - and admittedly the proof is not yet in - that would give Google a lot of disruptive capital to help shape the video landscape. Just so nobody gets carried away, Google announced a similar experiment 2 years ago with MTV that fizzled out. So the company has yet to prove its experiment works and that it is fully committed to the GCN model.

    Still, I continue to believe that video syndication - and the accompanying benefits to all - is a key, key driver of how the broadband video landscape is going to unfold. As a small teaser, there will be more interesting news on the syndication front early next week. Stay tuned.

    (And note that the syndicated video economy will be one of the main topics of discussion at the Broadband Video Leadership Breakfast "How to Profit from Broadband Video's Disruptive Impact" with our A-list group of panelists, including Google's David Eun, on November 10th. Click here to learn more and register for special early bird rate.)

    What do you think? Post a comment now.