Viacom, which called YouTube to the carpet for its plans to charge content owners for copyright-protection services, has found a digital media ally in Joost. On Tuesday, Viacom inked a deal with the nascent Internet TV service to offer a full lineup of free programming.
Following in the footsteps of Warner Music Group and TV production company Endemol, Viacom's MTV Networks, BET Networks, and Paramount Pictures will provide television and theatrical programming on the Joost platform.
Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis launched Joost as a platform they claim guarantees copyright protection. And, according to Friis, Joost was built from the ground up with companies like Viacom in mind.
"Our platform provides scalable distribution, in a completely safe environment that protects the interest of content owners and advertisers, while delighting viewers," Friis said in a statement.
Joost's guarantee seems to satisfy the concerns of Viacom, which has come out with a hard stance in the recent copy-protection debate with YouTube. Viacom has called YouTube's proposition to charge for technology that screens user-generated content for illegal use "unacceptable" and demanded the viral video site remove more than 100,000 of its clips.
But Phillipe Dauman, the media giant's president and CEO, publicly praised Joost for creating a "compelling and sustainable business model that respects both content creators and consumers."
Currently available in limited beta, Joost gives users free access to thousands of programs and channels not readily available on the Web. The service aims to combine the best of the Web and the best of the Internet on a platform that brings together advertisers, content owners, and viewers in an interactive, community-driven environment.
Joost offers television-viewing features such as links that lead to more information or related Web sites, as well as several plug-in applications, such as instant messaging, message boards, and news tickers.
To use Joost, users must first download software, which streams the content in full-screen video with controls at the sides and bottom of the screen. Just like traditional TV, users can flip through channels or even search for programs by title and description.
Joost vs. YouTube?
For all the comparisons between YouTube and Joost, Colin Dixon, a senior analyst at The Diffusion Group, said the companies are doing two entirely different things.
YouTube, he said, is more like a snack video platform while Joost is attempting to reproduce TV on the Internet. That, he said, makes Joost a better deal for content providers because they can control their own programming. Meanwhile, the consumer gets a more robust experience than YouTube intends to provide.
"When you fire up Joost you get channels and it is playing 24/7," he said. "It takes up your whole screen in a TV-like experience that uses a mouse instead of a remote."
Dixon said that Joost's video quality is good and the interactive features are compelling, and pointed out that, like YouTube, Joost might be in the right place at the right time.