Viacom Embraces Joost Web Video Model As It Targets YouTube with Copyright

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Viacom Embraces Joost Web Video Model
Viacom Embraces Joost Web Video Model

Viacom revealed in March that it will supply ad-supported Web video distributor Joost with full-length TV and film content, just weeks after demanding that Google’s YouTube remove 100,000 Viacom clips from circulation and just prior to registering a $1-billion copyright infringement suit against the user-generated content upstart.

Viacom will supply MTV Networks, BET Networks and Paramount Pictures content to Joost, a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology-based online service now in beta testing and soon to be launched commercially by founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, who also successfully launched Internet telephony operator Skype and an earlier P2P operation, KaZaa.

Like YouTube, Joost’s business model emphasizes free content and fostering interactive consumer social networking. The P2P platform will feature software client plug-in applications to support instant messaging, message boards and news tickers, as well as links that lead to more information or related Web sites based on the content.

The new company is pitching itself as “the first online, global TV distribution platform, bringing together advertisers, content owners and viewers in an interactive, community-driven environment.”

“Joost will be an extremely interactive platform and will definitely include instant messaging upon launch,” said a Joost spokesman, speaking on background. “Many more interactive features will be incorporated into the platform, but we have not disclosed any details thus far.” Joost is opening its platform’s application programming interfaces (APIs) to third parties to develop further interactive, plug-in applications, he said.

Unlike YouTube, Joost will focus on full-length commercial, as well as user-generated programming, and it claims “piracy-proof” technology that “enables premium interactive video experiences while guaranteeing copyright protection for content owners and creators.”

“We built this platform from the ground up, with companies like Viacom in mind,” Friis said in a prepared statement. “Our platform provides scalable distribution in a completely safe environment that protects the interest of content owners and advertisers.”

Google has promised to implement finger-printing technology to prevent consumers from illegally posting copyrighted materials, but until then, YouTube is complying with Digital Millennium Copyright Act rules that require copyright holders to request removal of offending material.

According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, broadcast networks and other media companies have backed off from negotiations with YouTube in recent months amid growing impatient over slow progress in protecting content and in producing monetary compensation for commercial content through promised advertising innovations.

Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman’s comments on the Joost deal appeared to underscore both content protection and monetization concerns. “We will continue to seek out partners like Joost, which has created an exciting breakthrough platform that represents not only a fantastic user experience, but one that is built on a compelling and sustainable business model that respects both content creators and consumers,” he said. 

The companies declined to disclose financial terms for the agreement and were equally short on other business model and technological specifics.

All Joost services will be advertising supported and free to consumers, the Joost spokesman said. “We have not disclosed ad specifics for Viacom, but in general Joost content partners can either sell their own advertising for the content they make available, or Joost can sell that ad inventory for them,” he said.

Still, Viacom’s contributions to Joost appear somewhat tenuous and cautious. High-profile shows from Viacom’s roster that comprise the most popular and contested postings on YouTube, such as The Daily Show, are conspicuously absent from the initial list of content it will provide to Joost.

That list includes StellaCCP’s and Freak Show from Comedy Central and Laguna BeachReal World and My Super Sweet Sixteen from MTV. Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures also will provide unnamed full-length feature films from its catalog of classics and recent releases. 

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