On Wednesday, CNET News.com checked in with Jeff Berman, MySpace.com's general manager of video operations, to hear more about the gargantuan social network's latest project: MySpace TV. The New York Times reported Tuesday that MySpace would be refurbishing its in-house video operations this week, creating a new video hub at myspacetv.com (site not yet active) to host a mix of amateur and professional media content. Berman filled us in on exactly what to expect.
"It's really just the next step in what has been a very busy few months for us on the video front," said Berman, who added that the beta version of MySpace TV will be active by the weekend, "and what will be an extremely busy and productive next few months as we roll out more products and feature enhancements."
When MySpace TV rolls out, the home page--accessible via a link from the main MySpace site--will feature a "hot video of the day," several featured clips and a "my videos" section where users can create their own personalized channels and playlists. With one click, they'll be able to embed a video in their MySpace profiles or post it as a "bulletin" for people on their friends lists.
Videos will be divided into 16 categories, many of which reflect the kinds of content that have proven most popular with the Web's viral-content crowd: animals, animation/CGI, automotive, comedy and humor, entertainment, "extreme" videos, instructional, music, news and politics, school and education, science and technology, video blogging, sports, travel and vacations, video games, and "weird stuff."
But despite the fact that many of those categories allude to popular niches of amateur video (animal antics, extreme-sports stunts, video blogs and the ilk), MySpace TV's content will be a melange of user-generated and professional. The service has had video deals in place with a number of partners, including National Geographic, Reuters, The New York Times and fellow Fox brand IGN Entertainment. There will also be a music channel featuring music videos from some of the most popular artists with MySpace profiles.
"We're going to continue doing the same kinds of deals and promotions we've done in the past," Berman explained, stressing that Fox content will by no means be the only content on MySpace TV. "For example, right now, the Sony Minisodes are enormously popular. We've had hundreds of thousands of views in less than a week of some of those episodes."
MySpace TV will also be one of the hubs for content from the yet-to-launch joint video venture between parent company News Corp. and NBC.
The juiced-up MySpace TV's standalone portal and easier-to-navigate interface will undoubtedly help solidify it as a direct competitor to YouTube, which remains the household name in Web video despite persistent legal troubles. Berman pointed out that ComScore statistics for streaming video consumption in the U.S. indicate MySpace-hosted clips rank second to YouTube's and that MySpace is closing in: 15 million unique streamers added from January to April, as opposed to only 9 million new unique streamers for YouTube.
It seems like YouTube is squarely in MySpace's cross hairs now, but Berman said that third-party content on MySpace--including embedded YouTube videos--is not threatened. "We're an open platform and there are a lot of companies--YouTube, Photobucket, Slide, RockYou and others--that have built pretty big businesses through MySpace. What we're committed to at the core is creating the best user experience possible, and to do so the approach we've taken is to be an open platform and we're excited that third parties are coming in and adding value to our users," he explained.
"At the same time, we have our own product and feature pipeline," Berman added. "Obviously, video has been a big part of that...We've taken the cue from our users and we're building a friendlier and easier-to-navigate user interface that should work for even the most casual video surfer on the Internet or for an aspiring Steven Spielberg." Since MySpace has come under fire from some for its less-than-streamlined site structure and the occasional mass outage, a focus on user interface will be a welcome change for many users.
One of the upcoming highlights of MySpace TV, according to Berman, will be its integration with Flektor, the video-editing start-up that MySpace parent company Fox Interactive Media recently acquired. "We're still working out the details of the integration," Berman said, "but suffice it to say that we're really excited about it. I don't think that there's anything that begins to compare to it when it comes to online video editing."
"We think the applications are enormous," Berman continued. "They're enormously compelling, and it's a pretty sweet fit within the MySpace community."
Having a video platform, naturally, would also make it very easy for MySpace to syndicate original content--concert footage from sponsored shows, or even exclusive programming. In response to that, Berman simply said, "Stay tuned."