Is YouTube worth $2-billion now?

So Sony Pictures has gone and bought Grouper, the online video site, for $65-million (U.S.). Okay — hands up, anyone who has heard of and/or used Grouper, apart from reading about it at TechCrunch or Mashable or some other Web 2.0 site. Pretty much what I figured. Although it is a half-decent looking service from what I can tell, it is one of half a dozen video-sharing solutions out there, and is unremarkable other than the fact that it requires you to download a standalone Windows app (a negative in my view) and it has a peer-to-peer aspect to it (Note: In the comments below, Sean says the download is only required if you want to share videos privately).

According to the math that TechCrunch came up with on a per-user basis, using ComScore data, Sony appears to be paying $70 to $120 per unique visitor (and that’s visitor, not user), compared with other recent deals for iFilm and Atom/Shockwave at about $15 to $20 a unique visitor. The one caveat, of course — as with anything that involves traffic metrics — is that ComScore’s half a million uniques is dramatically lower than the company’s own estimate of 8 million. If you use Grouper’s figure, the per-unique is about $8.

Doing some quick math, TechCrunch comes up with a figure of $2-billion for YouTube, which will make co-founder Chad Hurley happy, since the highest we’ve seen so far is $1-billion, a figure that more or less came out of thin air (using ComScore’s traffic from June and the multiple of $15 to $20 per unique, YouTube would be worth about $300-million). Does that make any sense? Maybe to a desperate movie studio or entertainment conglomerate it would (which Om points out Sony most certainly is), but that remains to be seen.

As for what Sony has in mind for Grouper, the talk is about pay-for-downloads and so on, which in typical Sony fashion will no doubt be low-quality and all crapped up with DRM. Davis Freeberg congratulates Grouper for pulling one over on Sony, while Duncan Riley says it’s just a matter of time before Sony render Grouper “so unworkable, unusable and undesirable that it will die an inglorious death.”

Rafat at PaidContent says the site has a solid management team, and maybe Sony deserves some credit for realizing when they need help, while Cynthia at IPDemocracy says it’s about speed to market. Rafat and Cynthia are very kind 🙂

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