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Video Website Offers Controversial Fare--At a Profit

Monday, 4 Jun 2007 | 4:22 PM ET

Videos on Liveleak.com make “YouTube look like Sesame Street,” CNBC’s Jane Wells told “Power Lunch.”

LiveLeak offers clips like Saddam Hussein’s hanging and the rescue of Jessica Lynch before they’re available on other major video sites. The most popular, for instance, come from U.S. soldiers and marines, offering a raw glimpse of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Roadside bombs. Soldiers swearing on patrol… What seem to be Middle-Eastern children repeating a U.S. soldier’s words: “I—am—an idiot.”

“We tend to allow people to see what other sites don’t allow people to see,” Co-founder Hayden Hewitt said. “What the sites actually remove… Because we believe it’s personal choice if you want to watch this material.”

But what may be the most surprising is that LiveLeak is making a profit. The company has no office, little financial-backing, and it relies primarily on volunteers to find uncensored video.

And, while Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock in 2006, don’t expect the same fate for LiveLeak.

Hewitt says a buyout would be a sellout, Wells said.

“I know it’s very hard to accept in this cynical day and age that not everyone on the Internet is either wanting to be a porn baron or a billionaire,” Hewitt said. “But, there is an ideal here as well. And that’s equally important.”

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

  • Tyler Mathisen co-anchors CNBC's "Power Lunch." Mathisen also co-anchors "Nightly Business Report produced by CNBC."

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Kenny Polcari