Facebook in talks to replace YouTube as Vevo's host

Facebook and Vevo have spoken about a possible partnership once Vevo's deal with Google runs out in a year, CNET has learned. A Vevo deal would enable Facebook to offer free music to users.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
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Facebook has held talks with Vevo about moving the music-video service away from YouTube and over to the social network's platform, sources with knowledge of the talks told CNET.

While the sources said the discussions are very preliminary and noted that there's still another year remaining on Vevo's contract with YouTube, meetings have occurred between Vevo and Facebook at least twice. The most recent talks took place within the past two weeks, the sources said.

Facebook is interested in a similar arrangement to the one Vevo has now with Google's YouTube. Facebook would stream Vevo's music videos and the two companies would sell ads and share in the profits, the sources said.

Facebook did not respond to an interview request, and a Vevo spokesperson was not available for comment.

If Vevo were to jump, Facebook could boost its music offering, which it has done only in incremental ways in recent months. In September, Facebook Music was launched, a service that enables users to share information about their listening habits and tastes in real time.

Last week, the social network expanded on that with a new music-sharing feature. Facebook's "Listen With" button enables users who subscribe to Spotify, Rdio, and MOG to listen to the same song at the same point in the song with friends and chat about the music. But there's still no real compelling Facebook-driven music service.

Here's the most compelling thing a Vevo deal could offer Facebook: CEO Mark Zuckerberg could offer free-music listening in the form of music videos--just like YouTube does now--to the company's users. That would certainly help Facebook keep users on the site longer, something the company is determined to do.

When it comes to growth potential, consider that Vevo has only been in business two full years but the video service was second only to YouTube in the number of unique users (130 million to 43 million respectively), according to Nielsen.

With Facebook, Vevo would be partnering with a service where people tend to spend more time. A move to Facebook may also mean fewer clashes. The top record companies have had numerous disagreements with Google over licensing fees and Google's antipiracy efforts.

Google was held up from launching Google Music last year because of stalled licensing talks and months after the service launched in November, it still doesn't possess the rights to sell songs from Warner Music Group, the third largest of the four majors.

But don't count Google out yet. My music industry sources say that the YouTube partnership has been a lucrative one for the labels. In addition, negotiations for the licenses YouTube needs to allow users to put music from the top labels into their videos, are going well.

Whoever Vevo partners with, the company will likely insist on maintaining a significant amount of control. Launched in 2009, Vevo offers music videos from three of the top four record companies: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Music. YouTube helped create Vevo's back end and Vevo's videos are best known for appearing on YouTube.

Doug Morris, then the leader of Universal Music group who is now operating rival Sony Music, was the man who pushed the idea of Vevo. Morris always believed that the recording industry goofed in the early 1980s when it gave them away for free to MTV. The labels could only watch as the cable channel went on to build a dynasty around them.

Vevo's purpose is to make sure that the labels don't miss out on the next craze in music videos.