Wednesday, December 15, 2010

YouTube Buying Next New Networks. What Does It Mean?

Today the New York Times reported that YouTube is in talks to buy Next New Networks. What does this mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community? First we have to look at why YouTube is doing this and its significance, then look at what it could mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Why and Significance of the Purchase

YouTube buying Next New Networks could be a game changer. When a company of YouTube's caliber buys a web series network, it sends a message. That message is, web series have grown enough in popularity and importance that we want to own the network that hosts them. These days, popular web series can get more views than regular television programs. YouTube is doing this because YouTube wants to become a content owner of professional video without actually producing the content.

This is significant because it echoes the Disney-ABC business model. YouTube is becoming like Disney, a parent company, and Next New Networks is becoming like ABC. Like Disney, YouTube would not actually produce the content. Like ABC, Next New Networks does not actually produce the content but hosts it for outside producers.

Caption Action 2 predicts that if YouTube succeeds in buying Next New Networks, other web series networks could be sought after by companies. We predict that Microsoft, AOL, or Yahoo will seek to buy web series networks. If this happens, we will see the formation of parent company-web series network relationships that will result in the ABC, NBC, and CBS of the web.

Possible Implications for Deaf/HOH Community

What could this mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community's efforts to get web series closed captioned? Caption Action 2 thinks it could have a positive impact. Right now, one problem with getting companies to caption web series is that the producers are often small, and have limited resources. This limitation could be overcome when the web series' network hosts are owned by wealthier corporate parents.

How captioning paid for now with regular television networks? Jamie once asked that question and was told that it varies - sometimes the network pays, sometimes the producer, sometimes the cost is shared between the network and the producer. So theoretically, if YouTube owns Next New Networks, YouTube could pay for, or share the cost of, captioning web series hosted by Next New Networks, with Next New Networks.

Therefore, it will become harder for the "we can't afford it" argument to be made. As an analogy, look at the situation of a deaf person needing an interpreter at a medical office. The doctor's office may claim they can't afford the interpreter, but the law looks at the TOTAL resources - if the doctor's office is part of a network of medical offices, the law looks at the total resources of the network. Ergo, instead of trying to hold the individual tiny producers responsible for captioning of web series, we may be able to hold the wealthy corporate parent responsible for ensuring captioning.

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