Joost to feature early view of VH1 comedy series

Internet debut of I Hate My 30s marks the first time that VH1 will put an entire season online before its network debut.
Written by The Hollywood Reporter, Contributor
Joost, a site that distributes TV and video fare through peer-to-peer technology, is getting a little cozier with the tube through a new partnership with VH1.

The companies are expected to announce this week an arrangement in which the Viacom-owned channel will premiere the entire season of its new scripted comedy series, I Hate My 30s, exclusively on Joost on July 16--which is 10 days ahead of the series' broadcast premiere.

For Joost--created by the founders of Internet telephone service Skype--this is the next step in advancing its content partnerships, which have been steadily announced during the past few months as the service continues to operate in expanded beta mode. The service has attracted at least 500,000 people, the company said.

"This is exactly the kind of partnership we would like to have with content owners," said Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, executive vice president of content strategy and acquisition at Joost. "We see this as phase two in creating value with content owners."

Viacom is an investor in Joost, having joined the likes of CBS, Sequoia Capital, the Li Ka-Shing Foundation and Index Ventures in a $45 million round of funding announced in May. Joost announced an overall content partnership with Viacom in February, getting programming from MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures.

In landing I Hate My 30s, Joost is elbowing for position among the growing pack of digital platforms such as Apple's iTunes and Microsoft's Xbox that are striking exclusive content deals. For Viacom, the deal indicates the continuation of its digital distribution strategy that involves neither Google's YouTube, which it targeted with a $1 billion lawsuit earlier this year, nor the upcoming joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp.

Joost also has made deals with Warner Music Group, Turner Broadcasting and Sony Pictures Television and will be part of the CBS Interactive Audience Network set to launch this summer.

30s is a half-hour, eight-episode series developed by the MTV Networks unit and comedy troupe Drama 3/4 that focuses on the changes adults go through when they hit 30. This marks the first time VH1 will put an entire season online before its network debut.

MTVN has experimented before with full-season premieres on third-party platforms. In March, iTunes began selling the entire third season of the MTV2 series The Andy Milonakis Show for $9.99 a full month before its broadcast airdate.

Joost's Alberdingk Thijm and VH1 general manager Tom Calderone said that 30s is the right show to premiere on Joost because, as the show's name implies, it is aimed at adults nearing or just past age 30--a demographic "sweet spot" for both companies. Calderone said 30s has a "different voice" than most VH1 programs, with a more sarcastic, cynical tone.

"This is one of those shows that will travel well and get in to the pop-culture ether," Calderone said. "It's a really cool, clever show, and this will get it into the hands of people that can share it and blog about it."

Calderone believes that establishing an early online presence won't take eyeballs away from the TV set, in part because his network has had a good amount of success with online programming and promotions. Last year, VH1 premiered the debut episodes of The Surreal Life and Hogan Knows Best on its Web site before those shows' broadcast premieres.

"The couple of times we've done it, it creates a lot of buzz," he said. "We don't do it all the time. We want to pick the right shows."

30s will run with advertising on Joost. The premiere episode also will get sneak peeks on VH1.com as well as on the channel's mobile and video-on-demand offerings.

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