Vevo appears to be going to some length to underscore the important role Facebook now plays in its traffic and viewership.
The fruits of Vevo's successful integration with Facebook's Open Graph can be found in a post at the Facebook Developer Blog, in a tweet by Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff and in reports at various media outlets. "Vevo Out to Prove There's Life Beyond YouTube," reads the headline of an AdAge.com article, perfectly summarizing the concept that Vevo desires some freedom in its relationship with YouTube.
Vevo's message is clear: We don't need YouTube as much as we used to. The music video service now gets 30% of its views in the U.S., Canada and Europe away from YouTube. Its recent integration with Facebook's Open Graph resulted in a 200% increase in registrations, a 130% increase in referrals from Facebook and a 600% increase in published actions on Facebook (which covers everything from likes to comments).
But why go through the effort of highlighting gains at Facebook? I see four, non-mutually exclusive explanations at play here:
1. Vevo is trying to increase its negotiating position with YouTube before the two companies' licensing agreement comes to an end at the end of 2012. As I wrote in March, it would make perfect sense for Vevo to open talks with Facebook while it is renegotiating with YouTube. The less Vevo needs YouTube, the better deal it can negotiate with YouTube.
2. Vevo is genuinely pleased with its growth outside of YouTube. Other digital music services have integrated with Facebook's Open Graph and have also boasted of the results. The fact that Vevo's deal with YouTube expires at the end of this year is only a coincidence.
3. Vevo understands the music industry's fear of a dominant market player, so the company is showing labels, publishers and artist managers its success in limiting its reliance on YouTube. iTunes' dominant share of the download market has the industry pining for greater balance in the streaming market. To send the message the streaming market is becoming more balanced is to instill confidence in the future of Vevo.
4. A deal with Facebook is more equitable than deals with Vevo's other syndication partners. Vevo has revenue share deals in place with other syndication partners, but Facebook does not currently take a cut of Vevo's advertising revenue, according to the AdAge.com report. That situation could eventually change if Facebook exacts from Vevo the pound of flesh it takes from platform partners like Zynga. But until then it's a great message to send labels, publishers and artist managers whose content Vevo distributes.
In spite of the story that's being told, there's not as much life beyond YouTube as some people might lead you to believe. Caraeff told AdAge.com he expects 50% of Vevo viewers - not streams - to come from non-YouTube sources such as Facebook by the end of this year. Even if that happens, YouTube would still have "only" 50% of Vevo's viewers and possibly a greater share of its streams. Vevo can ill afford to jeopardize a fraction of 50% of its streams, making the company still somewhat captive to its relationship with YouTube.
The good news for Vevo is YouTube needs its content. People love dancing cat videos, but they like premium music videos even more. And music videos help Google's other properties. Google's burgeoning MP3 download store and cloud storage service could be worse off without YouTube's leadership position in music videos.