NBC Universal, owner of one of the oldest television broadcast networks, is attempting to challenge Yahoo and Google for supremacy in the burgeoning market to distribute online video.

The media group, owned by General Electric, on Tuesday launched a new marketplace for online video that includes its 230 affiliate television stations as well as more than two dozen outside partners, including About.com, College Sports TV, The Horror Channel and others.

The new initiative, known as the National Broadband Company, or nbbc, will allow partners to make their video clips available to a central pool from which others can draw and post on their own sites. The revenue from accompanying advertising sales will then be shared between the content supplier, the publisher and nbbc. So far, JP Morgan Chase and Procter & Gamble have signed on as advertisers.

NBC is hoping that the system will provide greater reach both for individual websites and advertisers seeking a mass audience online.

The broadcaster has been burned by other online distributors in the past. This year, it lost out when a video clip from its Saturday Night Live programme became a sensation on YouTube, a website featuring user-generated content. “YouTube made a lot of money on it, and we made nothing,” said Randy Falco, president of the NBC Universal Television Group.

Its decision to make its content available to other websites follows a similar move last month by Viacom’s MTV Networks, another established media company seeking to adapt to the digital era. In that case, MTV struck a deal with Google to distribute its video clips to hundreds of smaller websites affiliated with the portal’s AdSense network. AOL, Brightcove, YouTube, Roo and other media companies are also vying to be hubs for online video.

In an effort to differentiate itself from others, NBC emphasised that nbbc would respect copyright laws. It said its partner sites would be credible and professional, and would each have the ability to withhold their content from other partners. “The content and the source of the content is very important to use,” said Mike Steib, general manager for strategic ventures at NBC Universal.

Those conditions appear to have been designed not only to protect content providers from having their material manipulated or shown in an unflattering light, but also to better appeal to corporate advertisers.

While Google, Yahoo and other internet companies have gotten a headstart over NBC in online video, Mr Falco predicted that the old media company’s network of local affiliates would be a key advantage. “If the people at Google and Yahoo were really telling you the truth, they would tell you that the next great horizon for them is to get into the local markets,” he said. “They don’t know how to do that.”

NBC will also begin monetising its sports rights on Wednesday with the announcement of a partnership with MediaZone, an online broadcaster, and the launch of a new internet subscription and pay-per-view sports channel.

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