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Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel has a new paper out called "Lost' on the Web: Does Web Distribution Stimulate or Depress Television Viewing?" According to a jargon-ridden post on Freakonomics, Waldfogel's findings punch a hole or two in Viacom's case against YouTube.

After observing 287 subjects on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Waldfogel reports that this group's above-average time spent viewing Web video, 4 hours per week, only resulted in the subjects watching 25 minutes less of broadcast television a week. And time spent viewing networks and websites owned by networks actually increased in this group by 1.5 hours.

But even more damning of Viacom's claim that allowing YouTube to carry its content lowers its worth, Waldfogel reports what the rest of us already took for granted: Watching a clip of an episode entices a viewer into watch a full length episode on television.


Part of Viacom's $1 billion argument, according to one flack, is that when content goes on YouTube it makes it more difficult to sell content licenses. Who would pay for something other distributors can get for free? Despite the spin, Viacom knows better. When Viacom property Comedy Central put 13,000 clips of "The Daily Show" on its own website, exec Paul Beddoe-Stephens said that the success of Comedy Central clips on YouTube helped Viacom recognize the value of putting its archives online.