Big media’s enemy: you

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The consulting firm Accenture recently surveyed 110 high-ranking executives from major entertainment, communications and technology companies about growth opportunities and challenges posed by the Internet. Almost 60% of the execs said that user-generated content was one of the top three challenges they faced today. And while they were bullish on the opportunities presented online -- particularly for short-form, advertiser-supported video -- only 38% said professional content owners were the ones best positioned to take advantage of those opportunities over the next five years. More execs placed their bets instead on Internet companies (26%) and amateur content creators (13%).

The results suggests that Sumner Redstone’s oft-cited adage that ‘Content is king’ should come with an asterisk, clarifying that the content in question doesn’t necessarily emanate from Redstone’s studios or networks. ‘The traditional monarchy is under attack,’ said Jamyn Edis, a senior manager at Accenture. ‘There are barbarians at the gate.’ More interestingly, the survey suggests that top executives at the major media companies -- who have often disparaged user-generated content -- are increasingly nervous about the threat that such material poses to their success online. It’s worth noting that in last year’s survey, about half of the execs said professional content owners would rule online, and almost none of them said amateur producers had the advantage. In the intervening months, YouTube happened.

One other interesting item from the survey was the execs’ conviction that social media sites are no mere flash in the pan. Seventy percent said they expected the phenomenon to keep growing, and half said their companies will have new social-media offerings in the coming year. And more than two-thirds said they expected their companies to be making money on user-generated content within three years. Heck, YouTube made $15 million last year with virtually no advertising, so how hard could it be?