Vevo is looking to roll a turkey. The video portal, co-owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Abu Dhabi Media and Google is looking to bring Warner Music Group, the only major on the outside.
Both Vevo and Warner refused to comment on the report and rumors of any talks between the companies. The negotiations are, a source tells Billboard, in the very early stages. The talks were first reported early this morning by the New York Post.
The idea that fueled Vevo’s creation was collective bargaining; higher ad rates could be (and were) secured against the labels’ videos if those deals were negotiated with a united front. Warner instead chose to focus on making its own YouTube channel — all Vevo content ends up on that platform — as robust as possible, likely thinking that if viewers could be retained within its channel, saving itself the costs associated with being a part of Vevo, that revenues from video views would likely balance out. At the very least, branding and presentation for its videos would require no negotiation. (Another likely reason Warner gave Vevo a “no thanks” — the company pulled its videos from YouTube in December, 2008, weeks after Vevo was launched. Warner eventually reached a deal with YouTube that allowed the company to negotiate its own ad rates and keep the bulk of revenue from them.)
Enter Erik Huggers, who took the reins of Vevo after longtime CEO Rio Caraeff left the company early this year. Huggers told Billboard, in an interview on his first morning at the Vevo offices in New York, that he has big plans for the platform, including a push for original programming. Securing Warner’s involvement in those projects would practically be required for any full-fledged original content that takes music as its subject — every major’s catalog contains major cultural touchstones. It would be pretty awkward to produce a show focused on the history of punk and be forced to leave out the Warner-controlled music of The Ramones.