The Skype boys take on GooTube

The Wall Street Journal’s story has been confirmed by CNet and by Reuters. No financial terms disclosed (Viacom’s typical deal is apparently to get two-thirds of the ad revenue), and CNet says that the arrangement — at least in the beginning — won’t include some of Viacom’s premier content, including Comedy Central shows such as South Park and The Colbert Show.

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According to a story in the Wall Street Journal this morning (reg. required), entertainment colossus Viacom has signed a distribution deal with Joost, the peer-to-peer streaming television service that Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom started up with the billions they made selling Skype. Viacom, of course, is the same entertainment colossus that recently ordered YouTube to take down 100,000 videos.

joost.jpgAt the time, that looked to me like a negotiating tactic on Viacom’s part, a way of exerting pressure in order to get some leverage over YouTube, and perhaps get a better deal — in other words, more money. Viacom also seemed irritated that YouTube hadn’t come up with the anti-piracy measures it promised to deliver back when it signed a deal with CBS and other content owners just before Google bought the company. And now it seems obvious that Viacom, which bailed out of a proposed “YouTube killer” some of the other networks were proposing, is looking for some competition so that — as Larry Dignan points out at ZDNet — YouTube doesn’t wind up owning the relationship with the viewer in the new digital TV universe.

Can Joost become a credible competitor for YouTube? That’s the billion-dollar question. Having tried the beta, which keeps improving, I think it is definitely going to be a horse race. YouTube has the content — and unlike some TV snobs, I am a big fan of the cat videos, comedy clips and undiscovered singing sensations — but the quality and the interface are underwhelming at best. Joost, by contrast, has a slick and intuitive interface and looks good (mostly) even at full-screen. Much more TV like, whereas YouTube is still Web TV.

If Joost can provide compelling content as well as having those other strengths, then GooTube could definitely have a competitor on its hands.

Further reading:

Henry “I used to be a famous Wall Street analyst” Blodget isn’t so sure whether Joost is the right model, and neither is Stan Schroeder. The always insightful Mark Cuban has some thoughts about Google and video, and my friend Scott Karp wrote recently on the topic of online video and monopoly. Meanwhile, Steve Bryant at GoogleWatch has an excellent list of things that Google could do to make YouTube not just look better but work better. And Cynthia Brumfield at IPDemocracy says Joost has thrown GooTube a knuckle ball.

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