Universal Music Takes On MTV, 25 Years Too Late


An odd story in BusinessWeek reminds us that Universal Music Group has its own music video service, two-year-old International Music Feed. The story positions IMF as a potential rival to MTV, but that’s absurd. IMF has almost no distribution among cable operators, and is unlikely to change that, for the same reason that MTV itself stopped showing music videos years ago: kids don’t want to watch videos that someone else has picked.

Kids will watch videos they can choose themselves, though, which would make IMF’s Internet plans more worthwhile — except that there are already plenty of other online video options. In addition to legally laissez-faire sites like YouTube, et al, fully licensed purveyors like Yahoo stream billions of videos a year.

The music business is still fuming about the blunder it made in the early 80s, when labels gave away their promotional videos to then-upstart MTV, who created an empire with them. IMF appears to be UMG’s attempt, several decades later, to try to benefit from the mini-movies whose production it’s already paying for. But even that motivation doesn’t make sense, since UMG and its brethren have already have a system in place to benefit from their videos: licence them to every possible distributor, and take a small cut each time they’re played. UMG would be better off fighting other battles — and it has plenty to fight.