YouTube Founders Unfazed by Challenges
Thursday, May 17, 2007; 9:46 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- The media's recent legal and competitive challenges to Internet video pioneer YouTube haven't fazed co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who have diligently sought to make money for new owner Google Inc., as well as the creators of the content that fuels their Web site's whirlwind growth.
"We have been a little bit silent, but we haven't been sleeping," Chen told The Associated Press during the duo's first extensive interview since Google closed its $1.76 billion purchase of YouTube last November.
The leaders of the online video revolution declined the AP's request to videotape the interview.
During an hour-long discussion, Hurley and Chen indicated that a long-awaited platform for showing video ads could be ready within the next couple months, although Google's recently announced $3.1 billion acquisition of online ad distributor DoubleClick Inc. could delay things.
They also said developing more effective tools to identify videos that violate copyrights remains a priority, and not just because YouTube and Google face several copyright infringement lawsuits that include a $1 billion claim by Viacom Inc.
Developing better methods of detecting protected material will pave the way for YouTube to work with copyright holders to negotiate more revenue-sharing agreements that include its vast community of users, Hurley said.
"We will be able to reduce the clutter of stuff that people don't even watch on our site," he said. "That will give us more opportunities to reward the people that are really creating great content for our system."
In its first step toward that goal, YouTube earlier this month said it was negotiating revenue-sharing agreements with contributors whose videos become big hits.
Yet Hurley believes YouTube would thrive even if Hollywood studios and music labels had all of their material removed from the site.
"What our users want to watch is themselves," he said. "They don't want to watch professionally produced content. There are so many people with cameras that have the opportunity to create their own content and so many more people with editing tools to tell their stories, we feel this is just the tip of the iceberg."
Because of its emphasis on grainy, homemade videos, YouTube isn't worried about the efforts of NBC Universal and New Corp. to launch their own Internet video channel this summer. Nor are they concerned about another site, Joost, that has gained the backing of major media like Viacom and CBS.
Those alternatives all seem interested in providing slick, lengthy videos akin to traditional television programming rather than invading YouTube's niche of serving up two- to three-minute clips, Hurley said. "We have never been about full-length programming. We have never been about high-quality. We don't really see ourselves building the largest audience by moving in that direction."