An Open Letter


Dear AOL/MSN/Yahoo/NBC-Universal and News Corp.,

Congratulations on the news of your new company to compete with YouTube.

The announcement of of this new partnership has me very excited. You say you are going to use your vault assets to create a new venue for programming—a “video-rich site… with thousands of hours of full-length programming, movies and clips, representing premium content from at least a dozen networks and two major film studios.”

One of my favorite quotes in your press release is the one from Yahoo’s CEO Terry Semel, who says, “We are excited to be a part of this landmark partnership that connects people to the content they care about…”, promising users “unprecedented access to their favorite shows”.

Allowing us access to the riches in your combined movie/TV libraries will be a great thing for our culture and will add to our collective knowledge of film history. It might even help thwart Internet piracy.

My only concern is that you might overlook the thousands of classic animation titles in your massive holdings. AOL’s parent company, Time Warner, holds the popular Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, the MGM Happy Harmonies, Tom & Jerry and Tex Avery masterpieces and the incredible Max Fleischer/Paramount Popeye cartoon; News Corp owns Crusader Rabbit, the historic first TV cartoon series; NBC-Universal has the wonderful Walter Lantz library of vintage Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy, and Oswald Rabbit. I’m not even mentioning all the TV cartoons and animated features contained therein, everything from Marine Boy to Wizards, all awaiting a chance to find—and entertain—a new audience.

And I’ll let you in on a secret. Your home video divisions have only released a fraction of the material you own.

Making them all available—the entire library, at minimal cost—will certainly connect your content to people who really care about it, namely our readers. There’s tons of money to be made from this proposition. This illegally posted 1940s Tom & Jerry short on YouTube has over 400,000 views. That’s more views than most of the modern animation posted there.

This is a watershed moment, the begining of a new age, with no rules, no ratings, no demographics to tell you people don’t want this or that. One thing we’ve learned from DVD is that people do want complete runs of great material. One thing we’ve learned from YouTube is that people are interested in esoteric material.

So release your old cartoons. Make them available for purchase. Believe it or not, people really want to see them. And I promise to be the first person in line to support the effort.

Best of luck,

Jerry Beck