Analysts say that by building their own online streaming video sites and cutting distribution deals with major Web portals, the media giants give themselves leverage to fight or negotiate with YouTube.
And there are hints that the new company might be offering an olive branch to YouTube.
"We are open for business with anyone, and would like to be in business with everyone," Zucker said. "If you believe in ubiquitous distribution, then this announcement is incredibly exciting and, as Peter said, we've had that conversation [with Google/YouTube] this morning and look forward to sitting down with them and anyone else."
No matter what the outcome, online video is here to stay.
"This is the new frontier," said Helfstein.
"This is what we're spending a lot more time analyzing as opposed to analyzing cable ratings, because the reality is that as better content becomes available online -- some generated by the big media companies, a lot of it user-generated content -- it's gonna take people's time. And that's less time people are spending watching traditional media."