By Jeremy W. Peters; NYT
Fear not, MTV fans. Episodes of "Laguna Beach" and "The Real World" will soon be back on the Internet, free of charge. But this time, viewing is on Viacom's terms.
Viacom, the parent networks like MTV and Comedy Central, which produce the types of programmes that are ideal for watching on the Web, said Tuesday that it had reached a deal with the Silicon Valley startup Joost to distribute video online. The agreement came a little more than two weeks after Viacom demanded that YouTube remove more than 100,000 clips of its programming.
But the Joost partnership gives Viacom something it pressed with YouTube but never received: a share of advertising revenue. Neither company disclosed the terms of the agreement, but media experts said a 65-35 split in Viacom's favour would be reasonable for a deal of this nature. Programmes will have commercial breaks, but the number of commercials aired in each episode will be fewer than on regular network television.
The Joost deal also provides a level of control for Viacom that it lacked with YouTube. Joost will not allow users to upload any of their own content. Unlike YouTube, which streams clips from network television shows that users have uploaded themselves, Joost will only offer videos that its business partners like Viacom have provided.
Philippe P. Dauman, Viacom's chief executive, said in an interview that Joost would allow Viacom to distribute its programming "on every platform, everywhere around the world in a way that protects our content while at the same time accomplishing our business objectives."
Joost said it planned to be available to consumers around the world by the summer. The service will require users to download a programme that will allow them to view videos from Joost. About 20,000 people are now taking part in a beta test of the program.
The basic idea behind Joost is to get as close to possible to replicating the television viewing experience on a personal computer, said Yvette Alberdingkthijm, the company's executive vice president for content strategy and acquisition. "It's full-screen, high-quality, full-length episodes," she said. "You can sit back and flip through it like you would with a TV."
Among the Viacom networks that will provide programming to Joost are MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike TV, Logo and BET. Paramount Pictures, another division of Viacom, will provide full-length movies.
Apart from the Viacom offerings, programs from the National Geographic channel and music from the Warner Music catalog will be available. Alberdingkthijm said Joost was negotiating with other media companies to acquire additional content.
For its part, Viacom did not rule out making its content available to other online video services, including YouTube. That is, of course, if it can reach licensing agreements that are to its advantage.
"We have never been adverse to entering into transactions with anyone who will respect the value of copyright," Dauman said. "We're always open to partners."
Ironically, in its battle for protection from copyright infringement, Viacom is joining forces with someone the music industry once accused of promoting the practice. Janus Friis, Joost's founder, also founded Kazaa, the music file-sharing service that settled with music labels and Hollywood studios this summer after a lengthy battle over music downloading.