On a day when everyone expects confirmation of an acquisition of YouTube by Google, Blinkx and Microsoft announced a video deal whereby Blinkx will power video search for Windows Live. This is obviously a big deal for Blinkx, which has very strong technology but has not been able to gain much consumer traction. It now emerges as the B2B video search provider of choice for many companies.
Blinkx will undoubtedly eventually be acquired — there are many who might want the company’s technology and capabilities.
But thinking about the juxtaposition between the Blinkx deal announcement and the YouTube-Google speculation made me reflect.
Everyone has (or will have) video search with user-generated content and various “viral” features. So who wins and who loses? Of course it’s too early to call but three factors are determinative in my mind 1) site usability (both from a view and an upload POV), 2) comprehensiveness (YouTube is more “complete” than Google for example) and 3) brand affinity. Then there’s the intangible “buzz” and popularity that comes with it. That might be lumped under “brand affinity.”
Online the only video site that has a brand really is YouTube. Video search is a subsidiary element of all its competitors. But YouTube has become synonymous with online video.
Some analysts have commented that Google is buying YouTube’s audience, much in the same way that Yahoo! was allegedly buying del.icio.us‘ audience when it didn’t need the functionality. But, if the deal happens, it’s more than just eyeballs in my opinion — it’s also about the brand.
When AT&T and BellSouth paid about $100 million for YellowPages.com and then got rid of almost everything but the URL what were they doing? They were valuing a brand that they couldn’t own offline.
All things being equal brand matters. Google knows that in search.
That’s why Blinkx, which may in fact have the best and most comprehensive video search online, isn’t worth $1.X billion and YouTube is.