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Viacom and Joost

Last week, when Viacom demanded that YouTube pull down more than 100,000 clips, including content from BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Films, we knew something was up.

Turns out that Viacom had simply chosen another dance partnerJoost, the so-called “YouTube killer” video site created by the people behind both Skype and Kazaa.

Joost is still in beta, but the guys behind it have some serious pedigree going for them. Unlike YouTube, Joost will be focused long-format video rather than the bite-sized stuff typically found on YouTube. It’s also claiming that it’s a closed and highly secure system, making it easier to nab people who redistribute content illegally. That obviously makes it attractive to companies like Viacom, who are looking for more control over how their stuff is presented and distributed.

Content will still all be free, as Joost will be sustained by advertising. On the basis of this deal alone, it’s now got serious juice as an advertising platform, and I’m interested to see how that gets handled. I haven’t heard too many specific details on Joost’s advertising model.

For its TV properties, my fear is that Viacom will offer its content as it does on television: with commercial interruptions. Basically, it would just be regular TV on a different screen. That would be a serious miss. The whole reason people are online is to avoid that model entirely. That’s why pre-roll advertising is problematic as well.

Instead of using Joost as an internet-based TV network, Viacom would do well to use this as an opportunity to rethink everything they do — right down to the way they create their shows to begin with.

Consider an example using another medium: the DVD. When I watch my DVD version of Chappelle’s Show, I find myself massively irritated that they leave in the “we’ll be right back/welcome back” footage that happens around the commercial breaks. The commercials themselves aren’t on the DVD. The show is cutting back and forth from point A back to point A with nothing in between. So even though the commercials aren’t even there, I’m reminded — on a DVD that I paid for — how much I hate them. (Don’t even get me started about the fact that Viacom didn’t secure rights to rebroadcast some of Chappelle’s musical guests, leaving me waiting for great performances that never end up happening on the DVD version — which, again, I actually went out and paid for.)

If Viacom doesn’t rethink its busted model as it moves forward with Joost, they’ll have missed a big opportunity. Like DVDs, the Internet channel should no longer be seen as the place where TV content can simply be retrofitted to squeeze out some extra cash. It has to be part of the plan right out of the gate.

Here’s hoping they truly understand that.

Geoff Teehan More posts by Geoff Teehan