SAN FRANCISCO--Earlier today, Viacom announced plans to put clips from its archive of The Daily Show--some 13,000 clips--on the Web. But speaking later at an industry conference here, the company's CEO said that's just a first step.
"We invented fragmentation in the cable world," CEO Philippe Dauman said at the Web 2.0 Summit. "We are going to do that with a lot of our content going forward."
"We believe in following the consumer. We've always done that in our history," he said.
Maybe so--albeit reluctantly. The Daily Show began in 1999 and it's only now that Viacom's rethinking its strategy. In part, the about-face reflects a desire to blunt the impact of YouTube's stunning viral growth. Advertisers ostensibly would be attracted to searchable databases of Jon Stewart and other Viacom content.
In the meantime, there's still the matter of that $1 billion lawsuit. Viacom earlier this year sued Google over the misappropriation of copyrighted content on YouTube.
And if the two sides were getting any closer toward an out-of-court resolution, Dauman wasn't letting on.
"Google is a very high-quality company with a lot of very smart people. They can do things when they want to. They haven't wanted to until this point."
Dauman did offer a lukewarm nod to the Monday debut of a filtering technology Google announced for its YouTube subsidiary.
"It reflects a positive evolution and I welcome it," he said. "We're not quite there."
Viacom also is part of a collection of high-power media conglomerates that today pledged to adhere to guidelines in a bid to slow digital piracy. The principles urged greater respect for protecting copyrights, as well as the adoption of more effective filtering technologies.
Google was not party to the manifesto. That also provided Dauman with an easy target as he expanded on Viacom's decision to take on Google in the courts.
At the time, Dauman said, he was surprised to receive "a lot" of calls from people "saying it's finally time someone took a stand" against the misappropriation of copyrighted content. Just who was on the other end of the phone line we'll never knew. Ever the corporate diplomat--especially in a public forum--Dauman declined to identify his interlocutors.
"We didn't choose to go that route. We had to protect our business. We took a step reluctantly because we had to."