The Disappearing “Les Miserables” Videos

In my previous post, I mentioned in passing that the Les Mis 25th anniversary videos have slowly been disappearing from YouTube; you may have noticed this if you have tried to watch any of the ones I’ve posted on my blog but got a notification saying they had been blocked. Well, there’s actually a video that explains a little bit of what has happened.

I’m also providing the text in the video (with some improved punctuation, of course).

Since November 2010, despite the copyright infringement, NBC Universal has allowed fans of the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert to post on YouTube not only video clips but full versions of the show ripped from the DVD. These videos had thousands of views; one full concert had almost three million views. Who knows how many DVDs were sold because of these videos and how many people became fans, not only of the musical but fans of the performers. Even fans who had purchased the DVD enjoyed the videos, in no small part due to the comments. The compliments, criticisms, and comparisons to earlier productions were freely allowed by Universal.

In the weeks leading up the US premiere of Tom Hooper’s film, the number of views soared as people unfamiliar with the story of Les Miserables but curious about the film viewed the videos. The case can be made that the videos actually excited people and sold tickets to the movie. Last December, after the film was released in the US, the comparisons naturally turned to the cast and production versus the 25th anniversary concert. Some of the views expressed about the film and the cast were not complimentary. Nothing happened until Saturday, January 12, 2013 when the videos, suddenly and without warning, began to be blocked by NBC Universal. In their place, this notice appeared:

“This video contains content from NBC Universal, who has blocked it on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.”

When the purge began, the first video taken down featured Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home”. Then the rest started coming down, including Samantha Barks’s version of “On My Own”. (A note to NBC Universal…you do know that Sam’s in the movie, right?) Ironically, Alfie Boe, who played Valjean, was signed by Decca Records, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, after his performance in the concert. Not only did NBC Universal block Alfie’s concert footage, they even deleted the video of his contract signing.

Now remember, these videos had been on YouTube for months. Does anyone really believe they were taken down for copyright reasons? Of course they weren’t. So if they weren’t taken down because of copyright violations, then what could the reason be?

  1. A fear that YouTube is running out of space?
  2. A fear that the Oscar producers will ask Alfie Boe to sing “Suddenly”?
  3. Because YouTube has banned all videos of bearded performers?

Naw, it can’t be anything like that. A look at the timing of NBC Universal’s removal of these videos gives a possible explanation for such a draconian move.

The Bafta nominations were announced on January 9th; on the 10th the Oscar nominations were announced. The 11th saw the premiere in the UK. The videos began to come down on the 12th, and the Golden Globes were broadcast on the 13th. What interesting timing for this to happen!

So the question is, did NBC Universal want to “erase” from YouTube the ability to directly compare the cast of the film with the cast of the 25th anniversary concert? Is NBC Universal really so insecure about their film’s cast that they think allowing the 25th anniversary videos could possibly affect the chances of winning awards? NBC Universal, Tom Hooper, and Working Title signed this cast for better or worse. The ability of that cast along with the creative decisions of the director will determine what accolades the film earns, not the comparisons to other Les Miserables productions or performers.

This video will not change NBC Universal’s mind; the corporation is, after all, an inanimate object run by soulless bean counters. At least NBC Universal can’t touch the 10th anniversary videos…

This might seem a bit conspiracy theorist to some people, but after watching the Les Miserables film, I can understand why NBC Universal might not want people to have the ability to compare it to the 25th anniversary concert.



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