Privacy At Peril, Again

I have nothing to hide, but that’s beside the point. I want my privacy preserved.

Viacom has sued Youtube (owned by Google). The issue is copyright infringement. That’s between Viacom and Youtube. Unfortunately, you and I have been dragged into this case in a way that makes me uncomfortable..

From Daily Tech: As part of its $1 billion lawsuit against user-video site YouTube, Viacom will receive a complete log of all users’ activities, which will include a list of usernames, IP addresses, and videos that each account has viewed in the past.

Whoa! I don’t want Viacom, or anyone, knowing where I go and what I look at on the Internet. I have nothing to hide, but that’s beside the point. I want my privacy preserved.

I am not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding Viacom couldn’t get at this info if I was watching rented DVDs or videocassettes and not streamed video from Youtube.

This decision will be appealed, no doubt. Right now, it’s just another example of America’s diminishing respect for privacy.

Why All The Money?

It’s a good week to be Mark Zuckerberg. First, it’s always good to be 22 years old (or so I remember). Second, it’s nice to have a little nest egg to fall back on. In his case that’s Facebook.

If you don’t know what Facebook is, don’t worry. You’re probably not a college student and here in the 21st Century, hipness is on a need to know basis.

Briefly, Facebook is a social networking site, like MySpace. Actually, it doesn’t make any difference. It gets a lot of traffic from people advertisers want to reach. Currently, traffic = revenue.

From The New York Times:

When Viacom offered $750 million for Facebook in January, he asked for $2 billion and was rebuffed, according to a person involved in the negotiations. Now, he remains undecided about the latest offer, made in the last few weeks by Yahoo.

That latest offer is for around $900,000,000 (the numbers seem to have more impact fully written out).

I don’t get it. As with the last Internet bubble, the numbers just don’t add up.

Let’s say the software, hardware, infrastructure for Facebook is $10,000,000. Oh, what the hell – make it $50,000,000. That’s got to be way high… really, really way high, but it doesn’t make any difference.

With $900,000,000 you could set up an online competitor to Facebook and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it. Give away bags of money if you want – real bags of money. Buy the user’s allegiance away from Facebook.

How can that not be cheaper than buying Facebook outright&#185?

What is the sense of buying a business that will bill under $50,000,000 this year for close to a $1,000,000,000?

Back before the Internet burst the first time, loads of companies where sold for immense sums. went to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion. Click on today – you just get Yahoo!

From Wikipedia:

In April 1999, was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock and became Yahoo! Broadcast Solutions. Over the next few years Yahoo! split the services previously offered by into separate services, Yahoo! Launchcast for music and Yahoo! Platinum for video entertainment. Yahoo! Platinum has since been discontinued, its functionality being offered as part of two pay services, AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet and Yahoo! Plus.

As of 2006, neither nor are distinct web addresses; both simply redirect to

The sale wasn’t a total loss… at least it wasn’t for Mark Cuban, now owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet.

So, Yahoo!, bon chance on this one. They can’t all be overpriced bombs. Can they?

&#185 – This is by no means a rap on Facebook – a perfectly fine site. I’m kvetching about price, not content.

Stern to Sirius

Howard Stern announced today that he’d be going to Sirius, the satellite delivered radio service, a year from January. Whether Viacom will find it in their best interest to keep him on the air for that year plus period is certainly being debated now.

I had speculated earlier that Stern would be part of the post-Janet Jackson fallout. Mel Karmazin is no longer at Viacom, and he was Stern’s biggest supporter. I was probably wrong in connecting this to Janet Jackson… though maybe not 100%.

The whole Super Bowl, wardrobe malfunction affair has driven radio station operators, like Clear Channel, to reassess. Maybe Howard is feeling reigned in a little.

I see two interesting outcomes from this move. As little as I personally appreciate Howard Stern, he is a powerful force with his audience. He will give credibility to Sirius – get them additional subscribers. Their stock (not particularly pricey to begin with) is up almost 15% as I write this.

The second effect will be felt by people who don’t listen to Stern and don’t subscribe to satellite radio. Just as more adult or racy content on HBO, Showtime and even MTV, led the broadcast networks to spice up their programming to compete, a good showing by Stern might force the same shift on radio.

It would be ironic if Stern’s move off-air ends up moving on-air toward his type of content.

This is a story that isn’t completely played out by any means.

Mel and Viacom

After the Super Bowl, and the attendant fallout over what’s appropriate on-the-air, I predicted Howard Stern would be gone from Viacom (his home base). Of course that hasn’t happened.

Today, Mel Karmazin, Stern’s biggest backer, resigned his position at Viacom.

There’s nothing in any of what I’ve read that connect these two events – and they probably aren’t connected. But, I’ll renew my prediction.

Without Karmazin, there is no one with power at Viacom who is in Stern’s corner (or at least no one with the track record of doing so in the past). I can’t imagine Viacom’s management won’t worry about the downside of Stern’s freewheeling show.

Of course, I’ve been wrong on this subject before.

Another Media Prediction

After the Janet/Justin Super Bowl incident, I predicted there would be repercussions at MTV – even though MTV is not regulated by the FCC. It didn’t take long before some of the more explicit videos they play were pushed out of prime time.

Videos are no longer a big thing on MTV, so this move isn’t as significant as it might seem. Still, a change is a change. It is certainly a reaction to an upwelling of public sentiment.

Now, in light of Howard Stern’s banishment by Clear Channel, I predict he’ll soon be gone from Viacom&#185 as well.

Let me preface my explanation by saying I have no political ax to grind. What will be will be. It’s fun to make these predictions in the blog because I really can’t hide from them later. Just remember – this is only my read on the situation.

Here’s the set-up. Tuesday, Howard Stern had the ‘other’ participant in the now infamous Paris Hilton video, on-the-air. They talked, and took some phone calls. One listener asked some questions which were crude and racist, to say the least.

Wednesday evening, Matt Drudge had a short transcript of the conversation on his website. I’m glad I got to read it. I’m just as glad it’s no longer there.

I would hope Stern has the ability to monitor and censor inappropriate material before it hits air. In this case, he did not.

On Wednesday, after hearing an aircheck, Clear Channel Communications took action and issued this press release:

“Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content and Howard Stern’s show blew right through it,” said John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio. “It was vulgar, offensive, and insulting, not just to women and African Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency. We will not air Howard Stern on Clear Channel stations until we are assured that his show will conform to acceptable standards of responsible broadcasting,” Hogan said.

Though America’s largest broadcasting company, Clear Channel only runs Stern on a handful of stations. Viacom is the actual syndicator of the show, and also runs it in many markets nationwide.

In this case, the tail (Clear Channel) will wag the dog (Viacom)!

Viacom is between a rock and a hard place because of statements earlier in the week. From Reuters:

Viacom president Mel Karmazin reportedly has imposed a crackdown on sexually explicit material on Infinity stations, declaring in a recent company-wide conference call: “This company won’t be a poster child for indecency.”

So, what can they do? Considering the Congressional hearings post-Super Bowl and Karmazin’s own public pledge, how can they stand behind Stern… especially in light of what Clear Channel’s CEO said?

They can’t. End of story. Hang out the “Help Wanted” sign. Stern is done.

&#185 – Stern is syndicated by Infinity Broadcasting. Infinity, in turn, is owned by Viacom.

Where Will Janet Lead Us

Last night I made a bet with someone I work with. I bet a cup of coffee that within six months, there are changes at MTV because of what happened Sunday night at the Super Bowl.

I believe CBS’s protestation that they didn’t know the specifics of what would happen. Still, it should be no surprise at Viacom or CBS, because what MTV produced was pretty much mainstream MTV. And, if there’s a claim that the Super Bowl was seen by a young audience – who do they think is watching MTV?

Without a 16 year old in the house, I wouldn’t know. If you don’t watch MTV, or just remember it for what it was, you don’t know. The “M” in MTV might once have stood for music, but music is hardly what drives MTV.

Much of MTV’s schedule is made up of reality programming. Instead of contests of skill or guile or athleticism, these reality shows are about hot young bodies in close proximity. There is plenty of liquor and plenty of hooking up.

After a while, especially to a teenage fed a steady diet, this stuff starts seeming mainstream.

Recently, Steffie has been trying to convince me that in one Real World epsiode a 19 year old was drinking alcohol. I didn’t believe it – couldn’t believe it. Now, I’m not so sure.

So, why do I think MTV will tbe the sacrificial lamb? CBS has tried to divorce itself from the Janet Jackson breast baring, saying it was an MTV production. Still, they are owned by the same company, Viacom. This half time show debacle was one of those synergistic things that companies bragged about as we witnessed consolidation of mass media outlets over the past decade.

At some point someone with an agenda will start showing that what ran on the Super Bowl is closer to the MTV norm than non-viewers realize. That’s when the you know what will hit the fan.

I’m thinking I get coffee out of this.