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IPTV Redux: Joost to Reinvent in the Browser?

JOOST RESTARTIf at first you don’t succeed, reinvent and try again.   That’s a mantra known at many an Internet startup.  And according to a new report, it looks like it applies to IPTV startup, Joost.

A couple of years ago, peer to peer IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) was all the rage.  There were content partnerships and huge eight figure financing’s.  High profile execs and even talent agents were hired.  “It’s the next new thing.”  “The TV of the Future” the headlines seemed to read.  Unfortunately there were cracks in an otherwise pretty facade and they’re now starting to show.  

For starters, most of the services required viewers to download and install standalone desktop applications.  That need for client software ran contrary to the clear tendencies in consumer behavior to favor browser based web services. 

A second issue was programming – little of what was available was exclusive and most of it was ubiquitous.  Content owners were seeding the marketplace to see what distribution platforms stuck.  Instead of gambling on one outlet, they offered the same program to five.  In consequence, if you wanted to watch a show as a viewer, chances were you could find it in three or four different places.  There was little incentive to be loyal.  It was about quality of service and temporal availability; a combination of conditions that don’t make it easy for a start up service to succeed.

As a third issue, bandwidth constraints imposed by ISPs around the globe threatened to impede the services’ ability to run smoothly.  In countries where “Net Neutrality” was not a certainty (and even in places where it’s supposed to be as policy), there were very real possibilities that a service like Joost or Babelgum could be singled out as bandwidth hogs and their viewers subjected to speed “throttling” to balance the traffic loads.

The sum of the three issues, and others as well, made for a tough climate.  Trouble’s was in the forecast for a while and it now appears to be catching up.

Om Malik of Giga Om reported Friday that the Joost client, once a highly sought after beta invitation and the subject of great pre-launch hype, will go the way of the dodo.

Dropping the software application, Joost will reinvent itself as a web based service.  The new Joost, re-launching soon, will deliver the same content through the browser.  A software plug-in that manages and the peer to peer distribution will still be required, but in footprint, it should be a tiny download compared to the prior incarnation.

Om Malik’s report says an official announcement is due soon. (Giga Om also received advance access and published a review of the new version on its sister site Newteevee).

Last April, we did an in depth profile of three IPTV companies including Joost on Metue.  The article was titled “The Struggles of Web Video.”  Re-reading it now, it seems to remain relevant.  In April, the writing was already on the wall. No tea leaves or psychic guidance was needed.  Despite the $45million Joost raised in its Series Financing, despite the hiring of a capable and well regarded CEO in Mike Volpi, an even with its talent agent partner, Joost just didn’t seem to have the tools to lure the mass market.

In the April profile, that article ended saying “the plight of the [companies] harkens back to the oft debated mantra “Content is King.”  As a distribution platform, they seem to be finding that no matter how good your deliver mechanism, you’re only as good as what you have to show.  A sustainable market requires a consistent slate of worthy programming. 50million viewers today will be gone tomorrow if the content pool dries up. Whether it’s Joost, or Babelgum…Daily Motion or another … the efforts to reinvent the wheel of video seem to be leading back to a single realization: Distribution methods change (and are changing),  but without control of content, it’s anything but a certain path to success.  As has been said for years, ‘content is king.’ ”

With Joost shifting to the web, they may well sneak around some of the consumer adoption challenges that have hampered them.   The challenges of content ubiquity, on the other hand will still remain as will the threat ISP throttling could stall their growth.

That being the case, as impressive as Joost’s technology is, and as capable as their team, it’s remains questionable whether they’ll stand out enough from the pack to succeed.  The competition is already intense. In various forms, Apple (Apple TV and iTunes), Microsoft (Xbox Live and some Silver Light applications), Netflix (Watch Now), Amazon (Video on Demand), Sony (Connected Entertainment ) and Blockbuster (coming soon) are all offering (or planning to offer) video on demand services. There’s also free ad supported alternatives from every TV network, Hulu and a handful of others.

Adding to it, today’s challenging advertising climate won’t help when it comes to revenue generation for an ad supported service like Joost.

With so many challenges, when the official announcement of the shift comes, one has to wonder if a eulogy might be a better format that a press release?

The road for Joost’s success is an uphill climb.

Related Articles from Metue
IPTV in Trouble: Looking Closely at Joost, Babelgum and Daily Motion
IPTV in Trouble: CTO Changes at Babelgum and Joost
Contemplating Disruption: Will Internet Evolution Hurt Big Media?
Anything you Can do I Can Do Better: Fighting for TV PC Convergence
Networks Take $129m from Internet Video
Joost Gets an Agent: CAA signs Deal
Will ISP Throttling Hurt Online Entertainment?
Comcast Investigated for Throttling Net Traffic
Hulu Gets Stewart and Colbert
Babelgum to Fund Original Films
Project Kangaroo Delayed Further
Kangaroo Project: BBC and Rivals to Build Internet Video Site
Microsoft TV Group: Looking Back and Ahead
Joost raises $45m
Joost Hires Mike Volpi


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