Media Lifeline: Joost

After riding the video-on-demand wave for a while, the service has had to scrap its initial proposal.

September 2005: When eBay buys Skype, a peer-to-peer telephony service delivered over the internet, Skype's founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, develop Joost, a video-on-demand service using the distribution techniques they had pioneered on Skype.

February 2007: Although the service is still in development mode (it hopes to be able to deliver near-DVD quality: not a simple proposition) and a formal launch is not expected until summer at the earliest, Joost announces that it has reached a deal with Viacom to distribute MTV programming, including Beavis and Butthead, plus shows from Comedy Central and Nickelodeon as well as movies from Paramount.

April 2007: With Joost already being rolled out on a "beta test" basis to a limited number of consumers, it begins talks with advertisers, offering the likes of Unilever, Philips and Intel the opportunity to become trial-phase partners for an upfront payment of $100,000 apiece. A total of 30 advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Nike and HP, eventually show various levels of interest as the beta test morphs into a soft launch during May.

October 2008: And in the end, there's no high-profile formal launch - which proves regrettable because, by the end of 2007, Joost's proposal is being drowned out by the noise created not just by YouTube and the launch of the on-demand video service Hulu, but also by speculation about Project Kangaroo. With content hard to source, Joost relaunches as a website (it was previously a desktop application) with a greater focus on social networking.

June 2009: Without the traffic it needs to sell advertising, it quits the consumer media business to become a technology company, offering its expertise to the likes of cable TV companies. Joost's chief executive, Mike Volpi, announces that he's to stand down.

Fast forward ...

September 2009: And yet, almost miraculously, it finds itself back in the consumer limelight when the original backers of Kangaroo and Project Canvas (the BBC, ITV and Channel 4) seek to revive their VoD plans in a new guise by entering a joint venture agreement with Joost, whose new chief executive is BBC technology director, Erik Huggers. Enraged, the BSkyB backer News Corp accelerates plans to launch a UK version of Hulu.

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