In the past few months, the snazzy television-like downloadable application – Joost – which aims to marry the best parts of the web (interactivity, on-demand) with the best parts of traditional television (programming), has been busy making deals.
In February, it was a content licensing agreement with Viacom to bring popular MTV, BET, and Comedy Central shows to the Joost platform. March saw a distribution deal with Jump TV, one of the largest broadcasters of television over the internet with 250+ channels from 75+ countries. In May, the company announced a $45 million round of financing with CBS and Viacom listed among the investors.
And today, The Hollywood Reporter announced that VH1 will premiere the entire season of its new comedy series, “I Hate My 30s” on the Joost platform on July 16, a full 10 days ahead of the series’ traditional television broadcast premiere.
All the big dollar investments and content licensing arrangements are obviously an essential element to Joost’s success, but these exclusives are the types of deals that the internet tv startup needs. High-profile, high-quality, exclusive programming is going to give Joost some big content muscles that it can use to edge out iTunes, YouTube, VeohTV, and others by grabbing viewers and keeping them tuned in.
The deal is also a positive sign for VH1. Networks are continually finding that online viewing doesn’t cannibalize television viewership but, in fact, drives ratings. Dan Mclintock of CBS told Wired at the end of last year, “ratings are not going down and the viewers are getting synergy: People who watch online go on the air, and people who watch on the air go to the inernet.”
VH1’s executive VP and GM, Tom Calderone, echoes the claim, saying that the few times the network has given shows an early online presence, “it creates a lot of buzz.”
More content online. More viewers on TV. Everybody wins. It’s a concept that more network execs are starting to understand.
But then why distribute on Joost’s walled-garden? Why not put up a MySpace page, create a YouTube channel, feature episodes on www.IHateMy30s.com, and watch the ratings synergistically spike?
Two answers: VH1 is drumming up some publicity for a company in which Viacom invested, and no matter the conclusion of previous web distribution experiments, networks are still uncomfortable in this new space. I’m looking forward to myriad openly distributed niche entertainment options but that’s a big jump for an industry ingrained with the idea of exclusivity and closed syndication models.
But at least networks are experimenting. Like Calderone optimistically says of the newly formed partnership, “We’re both learning together, which is definitely a positive.”
Read more from Alex Woodson at the Hollywood Reporter here.