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Cold To Google, Viacom Partners With Joost

The downloadable video playback application uses peer-to-peer technology to distribute video files in a secure environment.

Viacom Inc. today announced a content distribution partnership with Internet TV startup Joost, just weeks after the media giant's relationship with Google fell apart.

Under today's agreement, Viacom's MTV Networks, BET Networks, and Paramount Pictures will supply television and film content for Joost's supposedly "piracy-proof" online video platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Joost is a downloadable video playback application that uses peer-to-peer technology to distribute video files in a secure environment. The company was co-founded by Niklas Zennstrm and Janus Friis, who also co-founded Skype.

The Joost application is available for Microsoft Windows or Apple's Mac OS X (Intel hardware only) to select beta testers. A Linux version is in development.

Last August, Viacom's MTV announced that it was working with Google to distribute ad-supported content from MTV through Google's AdSense program for Web publishers. That arrangement represented a "time-capped test," according to a Google spokesperson, and has been discontinued.

Earlier this month, Viacom's relationship with Google suffered an abrupt reversal when Viacom, unsatisfied with Google's ability to police the posting of unauthorized content on YouTube, demanded the removal of more than 100,000 video clips to which it claimed ownership.

On the IP Democracy blog, Cynthia Brumfield, president of media research consulting firm Emerging Media Dynamics, observes that the Viacom/Joost deal represents a repudiation by major media companies of Google's approach to copyrighted content.

"There can be no doubt that this is a humbling piece of news to the Googlers who have managed to tick off most of the traditional media businesses with their purported hard-ball negotiations," says Brumfield. "Google, it is said, lobbed a veiled threat to Viacom (and other TV content providers) that it would not use its content protection system for filtering copyrighted video on YouTube works unless it had a deal in hand with the content provider."

Joost's future, however, remains far from assured. The company has to convince Internet users to download its application in order to view what's already more or less available in a Web browser through YouTube, not to mention a legion of similar sites and services. Content deals with the likes of Viacom may provide sufficient differentiation to make Joost popular, but there's a risk that content owners, in trading Google's reach for Joost's security, may end up shying away from their online audience.

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