Chad Hurley, a co-founder of video-sharing site YouTube, says television viewers should be able to legitimately watch content from anywhere in the world at any time, backing recommendations made by an Australian parliamentary inquiry this week.
The bipartisan inquiry into the prices Australians pay for IT-related products and services caused consternation among media players by suggesting that consumers should try to bypass country-based restrictions for cheaper overseas alternatives.
In a wide-ranging interview with AFR Weekend, Mr Hurley warned traditional broadcasters their business models were crumbling as viewers increasingly expected to choose their viewing on demand and online.
He said online players such as YouTube were likely to become more aggressive in their pursuit of rights for live sports and events, putting further pressure on national free to air broadcasters and pay TV channels. "I definitely think we are in a global consumer environment now," Mr Hurley said.
"I think the business models are breaking down and the companies that are going to win in this new world are the ones that make it as easy as possible for the consumers to consume the content wherever and whenever they want."
Mr Hurley no longer runs YouTube, but remains a consultant to the company after Google acquired it for $US1.65 billion in late 2006. The company, perhaps more than any other, forced television networks to reconsider their global business models due to the amount of content being shared.
'STOP FIGHTING PROGRESS'
Mr Hurley said YouTube was more aggressive in pursuing copyright infringement than other online players but that ultimately media players needed to work with online companies to create revenue opportunities, rather than fighting progress. "At this point maybe they are all continuing to try and lock things down, but I really do believe there is going to be a new service or company that comes along at some point and just starts to remove those barriers and will attract lots of customers all over the world," he said.
"Over time, all content is going to be distributed digitally and consumed on any type of device, so rights are a grey area."
In recent times YouTube has been making a move on sports broadcasting rights, which in many ways have been the lifeblood of pay TV stations. It has taken rights to an array of minor sports around the world, including some Australian basketball matches.
Mr Hurley suggested there would be more to come in this area, as faster broadband meant more live TV was streamed to lounge rooms. "I could see Google or YouTube being more aggressive from that standpoint," he said.
"In the past there have been cricket [Indian Premier League] and some Premier League [British soccer], but it is live sports and events that are hard to replicate as people don't want to watch them after the fact, so it is an area that will become more important."
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