On Saturday, Warner Music pulled all videos involving its music from YouTube after failing to reach a licensing deal with the Google-owned video site. (More accurately, it asked YouTube to pull them, and YouTube was forced by law to comply.)
Now, Silicon Alley Insider reports that Warner and the other three majors--Universal, Sony, and EMI--may be in talks to create their own YouTube competitor.
Before you scoff, recall the lesson of Hulu. First announced in late 2007 by NBC Universal and News Corp, Hulu was originally scorned as the "clown company"--everybody assumed that these old media dinosaurs wouldn't be able to figure out how to offer users a clean Web experience, and that users would never sit through advertisements. A year later, it's getting about a quarter as many unique viewers as YouTube--and with much less content and no presence outside the U.S. AP just picked it as its Web site of the year.
A label-sponsored video site may be a similar winner, if they design it for ease of use and are able to negotiate all the rights to post the content we really want. (Like videos of the one-off Zeppelin reunion last year, which were pulled from YouTube almost as quickly as they appeared.)
There may not be a ton of demand for watching music videos on the Web, but think of all the user-generated videos featuring major-label music. The big problem is that nobody really knows how to sell advertising against online video yet, but look ahead five years, and this is a good bet.