Inside Viacom: Mika Salmi
Salmi believes big "portal sites" such as YouTube and MySpace.com will give way to niche sites that appeal to audiences with special interests. This, said Salmi, is a game MTV Networks knows how to play. The company has been pinpointing niches in music and entertainment for decades, and MTV Networks has more than 150 Web sites and 136 TV channels around the world, he said.This is probably true, but I wonder how people are supposed to get from one niche to the next. There still needs to a be a central place where people can find what they're looking for, and the burden of having to know which niche site to find will turn plenty of people off. It's also true that the Viacom video site has only been recently updated, so it's still a work in progress.
"When I started here, I said we should go deeper and make all these TV shows and all these brands into their own communities and worlds," Salmi said. "If the audience likes (The Colbert Report), they want to get to Colbert as quickly as possible. They don't want to necessarily go through Comedy Central...The thought is that we should go from having dozens of brands to hundreds of brands."
Salmi, 41, worked at the record label EMI Group before founding Atom in 1995. Atom consisted of game sites Shockwave and AddictingGames.com, and video sites Addictingclips.com and AtomFilms, a site specializing in short films.Ah, a music guy.
"He really helped develop a new category, which was short clips online," said Todd Chanko, an analyst with Jupiter Research. Salmi stuck it out with video when almost everybody else threw in the towel because of poor picture quality and slow download speeds, said Josh Felser, the CEO of the video-sharing site Grouper.
"Mika is very well respected in online video because he kept his vision intact," said Felser, who sold Grouper to Sony last year. "He survived all the trouble during the dot-com collapse and ended up selling his company for a bucket load of money."
Asked for a hint on how the YouTube conflict might end, Salmi wouldn't say. He noted, however, that he's friendly with YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley and still hopes for a resolution.
"There was never any strategy at Viacom that said, 'We don't want people to watch our videos (at YouTube),'" Salmi said. "We want to be a distributor. We have distribution deals with iTunes and Comcast and recently we did a deal with (online video company) Joost. We didn't want to do it all ourselves. But if someone is actually making money on our content we tell them that, 'If you want to distribute our content we should have a deal with you.' If it's a professional relationship, then there should be a business deal.
"We just couldn't come to an agreement with YouTube," he added. "But we certainly want to be there."
The skeptic in me notes the timing of this article and that one man does not an Internet savvy company make. In one of the article's examples of Salmi's forward-thinking techiness, it notes that he helped push Viacom to allow users to embed videos. If taking the embed feature from YouTube and trying to replicate the site as a whole, just on Viacom's own servers, is forward-thinking then we are in trouble. Needing to have one of these distribution deals essential gives Viacom veto power over any competitor in the sphere of online video distribution. Given that "YouTube" isn't distributing these videos as much as individual users are, it begs the question of who really needs to be signing deals with Viacom, and whether Viacom is seeking to veto the way YouTube is setup and all other sites that might function the same way.