There’s a coming scrum that will involve all the major Internet giants, and the stakes are just being set now. It’s a fight for video footprint; specifically, for off-network video distribution and monetization. And it has heated up significantly over the past year, driven by a handful of expensive acquisitions and internal build-outs. This same fight (albeit with banner ads) took place during the heyday of the display advertising market — and it’s the reason for the success of Google, Yahoo and TechCrunch parent AOL, among many others. These companies started off selling their own internal inventory, then branched out to serving ads on the long-tail Internet at large. As a result, the top 35 display ad sellers account for roughly 85 percent of total digital advertising revenues. That might seem top heavy, but in online video, that same market share is held by the top five online video destinations alone. But video is just starting to see its own distribution networks coalesce. Up to now, the problem has been a lack of available inventory. Most high-trafficked video destinations are either portals like YouTube and Facebook, or TV brands with tons of video supply like ESPN, CNN or Fox Sports. There are very few pure-play video publishers, and the majority of where people spend their time online (the mid-to-long tail) has almost no video. Given that online video generates a 6-8X premium over display advertising, that’s a lot of money being left on the table. What’s changing that now is a focused set of initiatives to bring video into the mid-to-long tail of the web. This is where the world’s digital heavyweights — primarily Google, Facebook, Twitter, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Yahoo — are preparing to wage battle. Google is likely to be the first aggressor. The search giant is reportedly nearing completion on a YouTube video syndication product that fits into its DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) platform, which would allow its existing display publishers to create new video inventory so Google can then sell it. It’s essentially an AdSense for video, programmatically creating new video inventory for publishers that don’t necessarily create any video content. And, of course, that video will come from YouTube. This is both Google’s biggest strength and its most glaring weakness. YouTube is the world’s largest repository of online video, but it has historically been way behind the ball on monetizing its video stash.