A Comedian's Riff on Bush Prompts an E-Spat
Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner nine days ago has already created a debate over politics, the press and humor. Now, a commercial rivalry has broken out over its rebroadcast.
Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington.
On Wednesday, C-Span, the nonprofit network that first showed Mr. Colbert's speech, wrote letters to the video sites YouTube.com and ifilm.com, demanding that the clips of the speech be taken off their Web sites. The action was a first for C-Span, whose prime-time schedule tends to feature events like Congressional hearings on auto fuel-economy standards.
"We have had other hot — I hate to use that word — videos that generated a lot of buzz," said Rob Kennedy, executive vice president of C-Span, which was founded in 1979. "But this is the first time it has occurred since the advent of the video clipping sites."
After the clips of Mr. Colbert's performance were ordered taken down at YouTube — where 41 clips of the speech had been viewed a total of 2.7 million times in less than 48 hours, according to the site — there were rumblings on left-wing sites that someone was trying to silence a man who dared to speak truth to power.
But as became clear later in the week, this was a business decision, not a political one. Not only is the entire event available to be streamed at C-Span's Web site, c-span.org, but the network is selling DVD's of the event for $24.95, including speeches and a comedy routine by President Bush with a President Bush imitator.
And C-Span gave permission to Google Videos to carry the Colbert speech beginning Friday. The arrangement, which came with the stipulation that Google Videos provide the entire event and a clip of Mr. Bush's entire routine as well, is a one-time deal.
Peter Chane, senior product manager of Google Video, said "C-Span has some very, very unique content," adding that "online is really great distribution outlet."
But Julie Supan, senior director for marketing at YouTube, said officials there were stung by C-Span's behavior, because, she said, the site had helped fuel momentum for the Colbert clip.
"This was an exciting moment for them in a viral, random way," she said. "To take it down from one site and uploading on another, it is perplexing."
She also noted that YouTube had tried to make a similar deal for the clip that Google Video eventually made. "Google will stop at nothing to try to win over the community," she said.