Earlier this week, Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote about KZSW, a local TV station in Temecula, California that has started uploading news and sports clips to YouTube so that its viewers can watch them online whenever they want to. It means that viewers can now easily find and watch the clips that they used to have to request from the station, and they can take advantage of the features that are already built into YouTube – channel subscriptions, viewer commenting, video embedding, permalinks, etc.
Mathew Ingram of webpronews says it's a no-brainer, and I agree completely. While it's not uncommon for local sites to slap the odd video clip up on their home page, it's a lot more difficult to upload several clips a day and archive the old ones so that users can find them easily. The saving in bandwidth costs and website maintenance alone would make this worthwhile for a small station.
It will be interesting to see if other TV stations follow KZSW's lead. If they do, it will be interesting to see whether YouTube will treat these stations the same as they've been treating individual users, or if they'll start to charge them for the huge bandwidth that it will inevitably require as more and more stations take advantage of it.
The challenge here — and it always seems to come down to this — is how to keep advertisers happy and how to create some revenue with the free online video you're offering. Viewers who go to YouTube to watch KZSW's clips are putting money in YouTube's (Google's) pockets, and KZSW's options for advertising during a 5:00 clip are limited. Pre- or post-roll ads are an option, but advertisers would have to be assured of a significant number of local viewers in order for it to make sense.
There's also the matter of sending your viewers to another company's site — and away from your brand identity and messaging — to get content they can't get on your site. That may be a small price to pay for the free video hosting, but for some stations, even that small price could be too expensive.
Did you watch that news clip on KZSW, or did you watch in on YouTube? Did KZSW provide you with that sports highlight reel, or did your buddy email you with a link to his blog, where he embedded the video and wrote a couple of paragraphs about it? You get the idea.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea for TV stations (and newspapers, magazines, academics, governments, etc) to loosen their stranglehold on their beloved content so that their audiences have easier access to it and can interact with it as they see fit. They do, however, have to make some money doing what they do.
I think that while YouTube offers a thousand possibilities for TV stations like KZSW, it offers a million possibilities for user-generated stations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, that we haven't even heard of yet. Think of KZSW with no TV tower at all. Think of video versions of sites like the excellent Charlottesville Podcasting Network. Think of a university newspaper's website with a video news/sports/opinion section added to it.
I can't wait to see what happens next.