Nielsen to target illegal Web videos

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TESS VIGELAND: One of the most popular videos on YouTube today, at least at the moment I checked, is a clip of a contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." But you can pretty much guarantee that the game-show distributor did not give permission for that clip to appear on the site. Producers of all kinds of TV programming are fighting what some argue is a losing battle against pirated video online. But as of today, there's a new sheriff for hire. Marketplace's Lisa Napoli reports.


LISA NAPOLI: The TV-ratings company Nielsen is planning a new service to put an end to those pirated clips. The idea is to digitally watermark video so owners can control whether it gets used online.

Bruce Davis is CEO of DigiMarc, Nielsen's partner in the venture. He says the new system is not just a way for Hollywood to safeguard its content. It's also a way to make more money from it by attaching advertising to the clips people use.

Bruce Davis: So say it's a clip from a television show. You can have some commentary on the show, some fan club stuff, some merchandise, all kinds of things.

James McQuivey of Forrester Research says Nielsen needs a new trick up its sleeve. The company's been struggling to reinvent itself in a world where old-fashioned television is increasingly trumped by the Net.

James McQuivey: Up until now they've had a monopoly on measuring people's consumption of video. And now that so much video consumption is going to the Internet, they're losing a hold on a monopoly. And there's one thing a monopoly doesn't want, and that's to lose its monopoly.

Some analysts say Nielsen has a better shot at selling itself as a video cop than less-neutral players like YouTube, which has also been creating its own digital watermarking system.

Tech analyst Om Malik says the Nielsen plan is a nice idea, but ...

Om Malik: ... whether they can actually make it work -- I am not that convinced about that.

Malik says you can put a lock on content but it'll be impossible to completely squelch the multibillion-dollar piracy problem.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major

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