Viacom, Joost strike content licensing deal

Recently pulled from YouTube, content from MTV, Comedy Central, other Viacom brands to be part of video start-up's official launch.
Written by Caroline McCarthy, Contributor
Entertainment conglomerate Viacom has announced a deal to license its programming content to Joost, the online-video start-up created by the founders of Skype and Kazaa.

The deal, announced Tuesday, is designed to bring television and theatrical content from Viacom's brands--which include MTV Networks' Comedy Central, as well as Black Entertainment Television and Paramount Pictures--to the Joost software upon its full launch.

The deal is limited, at least at first: many of Viacom's most popular programs, such as Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and South Park, will not be available initially. Some of the featured offerings, however, will be MTV's My Super Sweet 16, Comedy Central's Freak Show, BET's American Gangster, as well as feature films from Paramount and its related brands.

No financial terms of the agreement were provided.

Joost, formerly a secretive operation known as "The Venice Project," is the latest product from Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström. They're best known as the creators of peer-to-peer file-sharing software Kazaa and Internet telephony brand Skype, which was acquired by eBay in 2005. Joost is currently in a limited private beta test, compatible only with Windows at first and recently expanded to Intel-based Macintosh computers. The official launch date has not yet been announced.

The software uses a peer-to-peer model similar to Kazaa's, but while that file-sharing service had gained a reputation for promoting music and video piracy, Friis and Zennström are promoting Joost as a copyright-friendly alternative to video-sharing sites that are centered around user-generated content.

The Google-owned YouTube, for example, has come under fire recently for allegedly failing to deal with piracy issues expediently. Earlier this month, Viacom asked YouTube to take down any of its copyrighted content, which amounted to more than 100,000 video clips.

The downloadable Joost, on the other hand, features a slick, television-like console and aims to offer high-quality, professional video content supported by an advertising revenue model.

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