Despite its well publicized spat with YouTube, Viacom is moving ahead with more plans to offer its content online, by partnering with the yet-to-be launched peer-to-peer (P2P) television service, Joost. The content made available will include television shows from MTV, Comedy Central, VH1 and Nickelodeon, as as feature films from Paramount.
So why has Viacom decided to partner with the as-yet unproven Joost? (Although the founders have a very good track record, in Kazaa and Skype).
The press release quotes Joost founder, Janus Friis, as saying:
"We built this platform from the ground up, with companies like Viacom in mind. Our platform provides scalable distribution, in a completely safe environment that protects the interest of content owners and advertisers, while delighting viewers."
When Friis says that Joost 'protects the interest of content owners", what he means is, Joost locks down content so that it remains tied to the platform, and can't be distributed elsewhere.
Although I'd argue that the business case for locking down or setting free content can be made either way.
In contrast, YouTube certainly wasn't built to lock-down content -- the embed codes are central to its growth -- and only now is the video sharing site, with the help of its new owners (Google), working out how it can please advertisers.
Writing on TechCrunch, Marshal Kirkpatrick, suggests that the Viacom/Joost deal could point to the decoupling of professionally-produced and User-Generated content:
It would be a real loss to the world if the two tiers of creativity, professional and user generated, were forever bifurcated in different distribution channels. YouTube has signed a number of distribution deals with music studios and others, but its viability as a distribution channel for copyrighted content appears to have decreased since being acquired by Google and failing to bring to market an effective copyright protection technology. The emergence of viable online alternatives like Joost could spell trouble for any hopes that we will soon be able to watch Beavis & Butthead and Chad Vader all in one convenient location.