UMG Pulls Videos Off MTV Over Licensing Flap

Billboard.com is reporting today (8/6) that licensing talks have broken down between MTV and Universal Music Group (UMG), resulting in the removal of videos of “most” of UMG’s artists from MTV’s online outlets, including CMT.com.

UMG had been licensing music directly to MTV for years, but is now directing all licensing negotiations to the Vevo joint venture, which also includes Sony Music Entertainment as a stakeholder, while EMI licenses music to Vevo.

According to Bilboard’s sources, MTV’s existing licensing deal with UMG had expired and Vevo was leading the renegotiation process. But an unspecified “hang-up” scuttled the talks and UMG responded by pulling its content. The impasse does not affect videos on MTV’s cable network channels, only online properties. Some UMG videos are still up, such as for those artists nominated for MTV Music Video Awards.

MTV issued the following statement when contacted by Billboard:
“For almost 30 years, we have enjoyed long and colorful partnerships with all the music labels, including UMG and their talented roster of artists on MTV, VH1 and CMT. As the industry evolves, we continue to seek out new and innovative ways to connect artists with their fans that are mutually beneficial to everyone. However, during our recent discussions with Vevo, we were unable to reach a fair and equitable agreement for rights to stream UMG artists’ music video content. As a result, UMG has elected to pull their music videos from our web sites. We are disappointed by this move and sincerely hope that UMG will work with us toward a fair resolution and allow their artists to once again connect with the millions of music fans who visit MTV.com, VH1.com and CMT.com every month.”

A UMG statement reads:
“MTVN has been unwilling to negotiate a fair syndication deal with Vevo to carry our artists’ videos and consequently our videos will not be shown on their online properties. We believe that using Vevo as our online music video syndication platform is the best way to maximize revenue for our artists, our songwriters and ourselves, while bringing our videos to the widest possible audience. In less than 8 months since its launch, Vevo has already become the web’s #1 rated video network with over 49 million unique visitors monthly, dramatically eclipsing those on MTV’s online properties, while attracting scores of major advertisers and tens of millions in advertising dollars. As a result, our artists are enjoying tremendous exposure on Vevo on YouTube and Vevo.com, and will enjoy even more as Vevo continues to complete syndication deals supplementing the existing arrangements with leading destinations as AOL and CBS Interactive.”

Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff said talks remain ongoing. “Vevo has been in negotiations with Viacom, including BET and MTV, as a syndication partner,” he says. “We are still in negotiations with them. We hope to one day power videos we have under license for MTV properties just like you can with CBS or AOL or YouTube.”

If Vevo and MTV can’t come to an agreement, Sony may pull its content as well, although there’s no indication yet that will happen.

The standoff comes only weeks after MTV finalized a deal to sell ads around music videos owned by Warner Music Group. That deal gives MTV exclusive rights to all of WMG’s ad inventory, including that on YouTube, WMG websites, and MTV. That deal also means that all WMG video spins will be counted as MTV traffic, regardless of where the views take place.

WMG is the only major label not participating in the Vevo venture, and sources say there’s no sign that the label will capitulate anytime soon.

Read the complete Billboard.com article here.

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