At 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time yesterday morning, Disney Interactive and YouTube issued a press release with the headline, "YouTube and Disney Interactive Team to Create Family-Friendly Video Destinations.”
But, eight hours earlier, Brookes Barnes of The New York Times had written a story with the headline, "Disney and YouTube Make a Video Deal.”
Do you think Barnes has a time machine that enables him to read a press release on Monday morning and then go back to Sunday night to write his story? It's like something from the "I'm From the Future Scene – Back to the Future Movie (1985) – HD.”
Or, maybe someone just handed Barnes the press release in advance and he figured out what to do with it. You know, sort of like the bandit Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) does in Tangled – Film Clip – "I have got to get one of these!”
Either way, here's the gist of the new news: Complementary online video destinations tailored to Disney audiences will be made available on both Disney.com and YouTube in early 2012. Disney Interactive will produce and program the co-branded video destinations for both Disney.com and YouTube.
Programming will include video drawn from "relevant family-friendly content" currently available across YouTube, original video produced by Disney, as well as a blend of current Disney Interactive original series, select Disney Channel programming and Disney user created content. An original video series based on Disney's hit mobile game "Where's My Water?" and its main character Swampy will be the first project to launch in February and will be followed by other similarly short-form, family-oriented programming.
A Good Idea For Disney Interactive?
So, what do I think about this new news?
If I had a time machine, I'd go back to the fall of 1995, when Walt Disney Publishing and Ziff-Davis jointly published a monthly computer magazine titled FamilyPC. I'd conduct a video interview with Jake Winebaum, the publisher of FamilyPC. And I'd do the interview at the Innoventions pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World, where FamilyPC was one of the exhibitors and sponsors in Innoventions East.
Then, I'd ask Winebaum to tell me (again) about the biggest strategic mistake that Disney had ever made. And, hopefully, he'd tell me (again) that it took place in 1983, when Disney made the decision to make the Disney Channel a premium channel on cable television. This enabled Nickelodeon to get a foothold and go on to become the leading basic channel on cable TV for family-friendly entertainment.
Then, I would go "back to the future" in my time machine and conduct a video interview with Barnes. I'd do the interview at his Times office in Los Angeles and ask him to tell me why he wrote, "The investments in the channels reflect Google's belief that the Internet is the third phase of the television business, after network TV (with a few channels) and cable TV (with hundreds).”
While I was in the area, I'd head over to Burbank, California, to conduct a video interview of Jimmy Pitaro, Co-President of Disney Interactive. And I'd ask Pitaro to tell me on camera what he said in the press release: "With online video consumption exploding and YouTube at the center of that trend, we see an opportunity for Disney Interactive and YouTube to bring Disney's legacy of storytelling to a new generation of families and Disney enthusiasts on the platforms they prefer.”
Next, I'd fly up to San Bruno, California, and conduct a video interview of Robert Kyncl, Global Head of Content Partnerships at YouTube. I'd ask Kyncl to tell me on camera what he said in the press release: "We are thrilled to work with them to bring amazing new, family-friendly entertainment to YouTube's audience of 800 million users worldwide.”
Finally, I'd turn to the camera and note the irony of the of Disney Interactive joining forces with YouTube while Nickelodeon's parent company, Viacom, is locked in a legal battle with YouTube. In other words, the roles back in 1983 have now been reversed.
As we enter the third phase of the television business, Disney has learned the lesson of history and isn't repeating its biggest strategic mistake. It's teamed up with YouTube to offer the modern equivalent of basic cable – introducing new Disney characters and stories to the Internet's most popular destination for video programming.
Meanwhile, Nickelodeon's parent Viacom is offering the modern equivalent of premium cable – and is likely to have its lunch eaten when Disney.com is re-launched in the fall 2012 and the Disney/YouTube destination starts playing a critical part in Disney Interactive's next generation platform.
I've got to believe that there's a Nickelodeon executive who would say, off the record, "I have got to get one of these!”