Peer to peer television over the Internet, a niche of so called IPTV, is an industry in its infancy. That hasn’t stopped investors from making huge bets on its future. So far, combined investments have climbed into the hundred million dollar range (Veoh has received more than $40m and Joost has received $45m). With such high stakes, the three early leaders, Babelgum, Joost and Veoh, are finding themselves in a heated race to capture marketshare as early, and as fast, as possible. Amongst this competition, exclusive content, the kind of “find it only here” video that might lure audiences from a competitor, and help separate the otherwise similar services, is revealing itself to be major part of strategy.
Today, The Hollywood Reporter reports Joost will announce a major exclusive content deal with Viacom’s VH1 sometime this week. According to the initial report, Joost’s 500k member audience will be able to watch the entire premier season of VH1’s new comedy series ten days ahead of the series Television broadcast premier.
The episodes will run with advertising to support them.
The show, which is called “I Hate my 30s,” was developed by the VH1 division of Viacom’s MTV Networks and Drama ¾ and is a series of eight half-hour eposides focused on the lives of adults entering their 30s, sort of a more comedic version of 80s program Thirty Something for today’s Generation X audience. Among the shows cast members, one member, Liam Sullivan is no stranger to Internet video. Liam is already widely known among the YouTube generation for creating the enormously popular "Shoes" viral video series and its star (his alter ego) Kelly.
Debuting an entire series online, and not just a single episode, will be a first for VH1, bur it will not be the first time MTV Networks has experimented with premiering content on alternative distribution platforms. VH1 has previously premiered The Surreal Life online and the 3rd Season of MTV series The Andy Milonkanis Show was offered on iTunes before the broadcast premier last March.
The decision to experiment with online programming aimed at the demographically desirable, but less consistently new-media-active, thirty-something’s is somewhat divergent from the twenty-something-centric content most commonly found promoted in other high profile online offerings. It’s probably fair to characterize this as an experiment (for which there is little harm in trying). VH1’s parent company, Viacom, is an investor in Joost, so there was already a warm climate in which to consider the deal. With distribution, Joosts relatively limited initial audience, much of which is concentrated among tech centric people, is a group largely distinct from VH1’s television audience; suggesting limited likelihood for the online episodes to hurt television ratings potential.
As a marketing tool, airing first online is a gamble. Active bloggers and Internet aficionados have the potential to make otherwise unnoticed content relevant and give it life (or quickly vilify content lacking in quality). In a demonstration of power, there is the case of CBS TV show Jericho where the actions and support of Internet fans resurrected a program that was otherwise destined for the has-been heap in the pantheon of cancelled programming. The power of the net wasn’t lost on MTVN executives. Tom Calderone, executive VP at VH1 believes in their product and sees a Joost premier as a tool that “will get it into the hands of people that can share it and blog about it.”
If Tom Calderone is right and the show catches on, a blogosphere endorsement could go far. And if that happens, I’d expect other experiments to follow; and not just at Joost. Competitor Veoh, though purposed with a seemingly different strategy for their company, is also armed with heavy Hollywood contacts through investor Michael Eisner. Both company’s also have talent agencies helping them source the next new thing.
This could be the first of many shows to begin its life online.
[Note: for those hoping to try any of the three IPTV services, Veoh, Babelgum or Joost are all still in invitation based Beta testing. If you’d like an invitation, Metue can help. We have access to all three and as time allows, are happy to forward invitations for any of the three. If you’d like one please either leave a comment on this post or use the Contact Me page of the site. Be sure to provide a name and valid email address as they are required for all three invitation systems. Also make sure you mention the name of the service you would like to receive an invitation for in the Subject Heading of the email. We will forward you an invite as quickly as we are able.]