MTV online strategy to help Viacom take on YouTube?

Users soon to be able to grab videos from nearly all MTV Networks sites, and post them on their own blogs or Web sites.

You won't find clips of comedian Jon Stewart's Daily Show and MTV's Pimp My Ride on YouTube anymore, but Viacom is laying the groundwork for its videos to be available to hundreds of thousands of other sites.

In the next few months, Web users will be able to grab videos from nearly all MTV-owned sites and post them on their own blogs or Web sites, lessening the need to go to YouTube, the top online video service that Google acquired last year.

Viacom, owner of MTV Networks and the Paramount Pictures movie studio, had been planning for this move long before it demanded earlier this month that YouTube remove more than 100,000 unauthorized Viacom video clips from its site, after failing to reach a distribution deal.

"We need to open up our Web sites and content both for consumers and for other companies," Mika Salmi, MTV Networks president of global digital media, said in an interview last Friday.

The move is part of a strategy to bring Viacom's Web sites up to "Web 2.0" standards, Salmi said. "Part of that is allowing people to take our content and embed it and make (their) own things out of it--whatever they want," he said.

MTV, once the arbiter of cool for hip young viewers, is now playing catch-up to online social networks like News Corp.'s MySpace.com. , but it lost out to Rupert Murdoch, leading to the ouster of Viacom's chief executive.

Viacom has not yet ruled out a deal with YouTube; analysts say the dust-up is a mere negotiating tactic. But Viacom also sees staying relevant to a new generation of media consumers as a top priority. To do so, it is borrowing ideas from the very companies it competes against.

Since December, Viacom's Comedy Central Web site has been allowing viewers to embed its videos on their own sites. Other Viacom brands, such as Ifilm and AddictingGames, have offered this feature even longer.

The idea, borrowed from sites like YouTube and MySpace, helps Viacom rely less on sites like YouTube by reaching viewers wherever they migrate, even if it is a friend's blog page.

At the same time, the company can control its own programming and advertising.

"Viral consumer-promoted video is a powerful thing to (Viacom)," Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said. "An embedding move means they get it--they're not playing ostrich."

Connecting MTV Networks' global network of more than 150 Web sites has been time-consuming, but executives see linking the myriad technological platforms as a key to its future.

"The biggest concern is, I want consumers to find our stuff," Salmi said.

Reaching viewers everywhere they go has been a key tenet of new business models on the Internet. Even as companies explore their own strategies, several big media companies, including Viacom and News Corp., have discussed forming a rival to YouTube, sources said earlier.

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said in November that the company had a "good chance" to generate $500 million in sales from its digital properties in 2007.

The company plans to invest more heavily in new networks and digital properties. MTV Networks said it would cut about 250 U.S. jobs to reduce costs and invest in its "television and digital future," according to an internal memo at the division.

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