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Viacom to offer free TV shows, films on Joost site

February 21, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Viacom Inc., owner of MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures, said Tuesday that it planned to deliver free films and television shows through Joost, a rival to YouTube run by pioneers of Internet calling and music sharing.

The companies didn't disclose the terms of the agreement, which is multiyear, said Jeremy Zweig, a spokesman for New York-based Viacom. Joost's website is expected to begin operations sometime next month.

The deal comes two weeks after Viacom demanded that YouTube, the video-sharing site owned by Google Inc., remove 100,000 clips from its TV networks that were posted without permission. Viacom said it would provide Joost with shows from MTV, VH1 and BET Networks and films from Paramount.

Joost is run by the same duo who started the Skype Internet calling service and the Kazaa music-sharing site.

"The Joost platform is in essence a closed system," said Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner Inc., a market research firm in Stamford, Conn. "The ability for piracy and content to be stolen is minimal."

The Joost service for delivering advertiser-supported TV programming over the Internet builds on the same technologies that Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis used with Skype and Kazaa. It provides Internet users with lists of videos for viewing at a time of their convenience.

Run from offices in London, New York and the Netherlands, Joost offers a piracy-proof platform, the companies said. Content creators and viewers must download free software, which limits sharing. YouTube requires no extra software and places fewer restrictions on sharing.

Programs from Viacom are expected to include full-length Paramount films and cable TV shows such as MTV's "The Real World," Zweig said. Joost will also offer archived content such as "Beavis and Butt-Head" and allow creators to add ads.

Viacom may still reach a file-sharing agreement with YouTube, Weiner said.

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