News Corp looks at MySpace video deal

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News Corp is in “very active negotiations” with other big media companies to license copyrighted video content and distribute it on the internet through its MySpace social networking site.

Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media, News Corp’s digital division which includes MySpace.com, said yesterday that the talks were aimed at creating the “most robust video offering on the web”, an ambition shared by its rival YouTube.

The plans come amid a cooling of relations between some media companies and Google, which acquired video-sharing site YouTube last year for $1.6bn and is aiming to develop a advertising-driven video business around it.

YouTube remains the biggest video-sharing website in the world. MySpace, the world’s biggest social networking site, last year introduced video-sharing features and has become the second-biggest video site.

Although YouTube was driven by the surge of user-generated video, a category of amateur video clips that remains hugely popular, many media executives believe professionally-produced content will be more appealing to advertisers, a point reiterated by Mr Levinsohn. Despite high-level talks between Google and media company executives, no big deals have been struck so far.

Instead, Viacom forced YouTube to take down all of its clips, which include popular items from MTV and Comedy Central, and which totalled more than 100,000. Talks with CBS and NBC Universal have also so far failed to result in a deal.

This week, Microsoft attacked its rival for its “cavalier” approach to copyright. Tom Rubin, associate general counsel for Microsoft, accused Google of exploiting books, music, films and television programmes without permission.

Mr Levinsohn, who has worked in News Corp’s Fox movie division and last year took over the digital businesses, said he thought a joint venture could work if it was structured properly.

Previous efforts by media companies to form consortia have fallen apart amid
bickering and clashing objectives.

He said, for example, that Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of News Corp and number two to Rupert Murdoch, was very involved in this plan and the potential involvement of senior executives at rival media groups was one factor which could help the venture.

“Peter Chernin is very active and if we get that kind of level of support across the entire business we would be in great shape,” Mr Levinsohn said.

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