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Google And Celebrity Content: The Uh-Oh Moment For TV?

Not yet. It's a distraction, not yet a defection.

Google's endless reach and ubiquitous presence are not the primary elements of hair-pulling, roof-jumping worry for television executives. It's not even that they own YouTube, easily the biggest threat to the future of the television industry (but currently only a mild pest, a time-waster of stupid animal and human tricks, etc.).

No, the big worry has always been Google's cash. Google doesn't just have piles of cash - silos of cash -- it's essentially printing money. There are no corporate overlords at any of the five broadcast networks who are printing cash, much less coins. With cash comes worry.

New York Magazine's Vulture blog reported that YouTube is planning a new initiative to get famous celebrities to create short-form content for special celebrity channels within YouTube, and that the company was going to make this happen by raining down money on them. Plus, after they soak up Google's largesse, they get to keep the content. Head over to CBS and see if you can get that deal from Les Moonves. "You give me $5 million, Les, and I give you three minutes of content. Which I own entirely." Do not underestimate Moonves' ability to dole out a swift kick in the ass and maybe run you head-first, arms-back, through a plate glass window.

Now, normally spending millions for celebrities to have side projects that might seem super cool on YouTube and either boost their popularity or extend the life of it, would be very worrisome to others involved in the content distribution business. Because it creates distraction. And distraction is bad for business. See, distraction in the form of viral videos is already diluting the television ratings pool. And before the advent of the viral phenomenon, the proliferation of cable content had, for almost a decade, diluted the network dominance of the total viewing audience.

Just take a look at the Nielsen ratings. What was barely a hit five years ago would be considered a ratings champ now.

If Google/YouTube get in the original content business -- from celebs, not non-pros -- in a meaningful and dedicated manner, then doctors and pharmacists will be processing a lot more prescriptions upping the dosage on Xanax and Paxil throughout the greater Los Angeles area. 

The key here is meaningful. Three minutes is not going to kill the television business so much as annoy it. If YouTube ever strays from its belief in the Short Attention Span Nation and expands celebrity content to, say, 20+ minutes, then you've got blood on the ground all over Los Angeles.

One hundred and eighty seconds is not a visual neutron bomb. Look at FunnyorDie.com -- which is the first thing that Google/YouTube should have thought about. Cool site, larded with celebrities doing highly polished videos, spoofs, etc. Not a network killer. Not a game changer. Just more distraction. 

If that's what Google wants to do -- pissing away millions of dollars on people who already have millions of dollars, then godspeed. But if there's something else in the nascent stages that's going to be longer, star-studded, well-funded and -- important distinction here -- dedicated and ongoing? Well, yeah. That's the Uh-Oh Moment for networks. That's when Google starts chopping your beef. And you  don't want that -- because it's not a distraction. It's the first death-knell.