Next TV: Viacom Settlement Illustrates Media Acceptance for YouTube

New York—The settlement between Google and Viacom that ended a seven-year legal battle over the appearance of copyrighted video on YouTube is indicative of a greater acceptance of YouTube in the media world, according Laura Lee, head of entertainment at YouTube/Google.

“I can say we’re really pleased with the outcome,” Lee said Wednesday in a keynote discussion with Broadcasting & Cable executive editor Dade Hayes at the Next TV Summit, noting that her legal team would be less than pleased if she commented further. “I think it does definitely show that there are many different inflection points in our relationships, if you will, with traditional media. And I think it’s really been leading up to this crescendo.”

Lee talked about the distrust of YouTube that was prevalent at MTV when she was an executive there several years ago. She then pointed to the way that talk-show hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon engage their audiences through YouTube as an example of the overlap between YouTube and linear television that couldn’t have occurred a few years ago. DeGeneres’ channel, for instance, is the 17th most popular on YouTube.

Asked about the current state of YouTube’s push into developing original content—which made a splash in 2011 when the company announced it would invest $100 million dollars in creating its own original channels with partners ranging from Jay-Z to Reuters—Lee characterized it as a valuable experience.

“We’ve learned a lot from that,” she said. “For us it was a really big jump into a world that you all know well. What it really got us smart about was how to shine a spotlight on certain categories. Some of them worked out really well for us. Some of them didn’t.”

Lee noted that 40% of YouTube’s views come via mobile devices, and teased new product launches later this year geared toward the mobile viewing experience.

“We want to make sure that when someone’s here, on their tablet or on their phone, that they’re really going to be able to immerse themselves,” Lee said. “And that will lead to longer session viewing.”