YouTube is the public access TV of our time, an amateur free-for-all with enormous power to influence the culture but no easy way to monetize that power.
So says sports, technology and entertainment maven Mark Cuban, who this week posted a blunt and intriguing take on Netflix, YouTube and television on his blog maverick website.
His piece is titled "How Netflix is Hurting YouTube," and it comes as parent company Google is talking (albeit in vague terms) about using YouTube to sell, rent and stream full-length films, and also enlisting Hollywood talent to contribute original material.
"On YouTube you can maybe change the world," writes Cuban, who says the sheer volume and variety of user-generated content makes the platform a great way to create communities, but "a huge challenge if you are trying to maximize earnings per share for your parent corporation. People won’t pay a subscription fee for any of it and most of it will never pay for itself with advertising because most of it will never be seen."
Of the three platforms, Cuban writes, traditional TV is "where you get entertainment in real time"; Netflix is notable for its extensive library and its "extraordinary job of being available easily on any and every device known to the Internet"; and YouTube is "like walking through the bargain bin at Walmart hoping to find something that might interest you, knowing the price is right."
But the bargain bin wants to be more than that – which, says the always-outspoken Cuban, is why "YouTube is channeling 1998 [ouch!] and gearing up to do quite a bit of live streaming."
He thinks the move could be revolutionary in some ways. But as a business strategy, he doesn't think it'll work the way Google wants it to work.
"[I]t won’t change the content stratification challenge YouTube is facing now," he says. " … The reality is that both cable/telco/sat distributors on your TV and Netflix are moving faster in terms of the introduction of technology (TV Everywhere/Remote DVR/IPad and multi device suuport) and the introduction of new and original high value content than YouTube."
Cuban's blog does also say nice things about YouTube – but overall, the colorful and frequently controversial entrepreneur should probably expect that most of the Google brass will be rooting for the Portland Trail Blazers over Cuban's Dallas Mavericks when the NBA playoffs start this weekend.
(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)