How Joost lost its way

1 07 2009

Joost yesterday confirmed it was pulling out of consumer-facing services. Where did it fail where Hulu succeeds?

Lesson number one: when breaking a new product category, be modest, even if you were the founders of Skype and Kazaa.

Lesson number two: if you’re dealing with a media and entertainment industry sh*t scared about its future, be humble and straightforward. Suggesting that you’re about to replace television would be the wrong approach.

Lesson number three: speak a language that TV networks understand. Get them in the comfort zone and build.

Three simple reasons why Joost only had black and white episodes of Lassie and vids of girls in bikinis.

The arrogance of its founders was its principal failing.

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Joost – what went wrong?

6 04 2008

It was heralded as re-inventing the TV paradigm or the end of TV as we know it, yet barely a year after its public launch, online video service Joost appears to be lurching from one crisis into another. The service is planning a major retrenchment, reports the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, “after failing to attract enough users and top-flight broadcasting rights.”

Joost was the one service guaranteed to get the digerati foaming at the mouth, with the kind of gushing enthusiasm normally reserved for the latest Apple gizmo. The company struck gold early in its history by opportunistically inking a content deal with Viacom – some speculated it was less about Viacom making a serious push into the brave new world of web video and more one-in-the-eye at YouTube, which it is currently suing for alleged copyright infringement.

The online video market has evolved considerably during the last year – most if not all of the big broadcast networks have launched or beefed up their offers: NBC Universal and NewsCorp. have bowed their “YouTube-killer” portal Hulu; the BBC iPlayer eventually made its debut and ‘Project Kangaroo’, the JV between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 looks set to create a new online video powerhouse later this year.

Meanwhile Joost, requiring users to download and install a desktop application, populated with pedestrian content, is in danger of looking as cutting edge as a parent at a school disco. Moreover, at a time when play now Flash streaming has become the de facto user experience, Joost feels clunky by comparison. True, Apple’s iTunes also requires users to install a desktop app, but it does boast some heavyweights as content partners.

It’s a cruel twist of irony that the ‘revolutionary’ service which looked set to shake up the TV paradigm is in danger of looking so web 1.0 at a time when video is so seamlessly being woven into the fabric of the rest of the web. Joost is retrenching from global markets to focus on the U.S., says The Sunday Times – something it probably should’ve done in the first place.

Moral of the tale #1 is that striking gold very seldom happens more than once in succession – something the entertainent industry understands well. Joost’s founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis may have turned the telecoms industry upside down with Skype, but thus far Joost has failed to establish itself as anything more than an over-hyped vanity business.

Moral of the tale #2 is under-estimate the deeply-entrenched business models of media and entertainment incumbents at your peril.

The future for Joost? Renewed focus on the U.S. will likely help the service to leverage its strengths and build a significant niche market. Eventually its founders will tire of it and likely offload it to a media heavyweight. beyondnessofthings predicts Viacom will buy it at fire auction rates.

Update: Joost has rebutted yesterday’s story in The Times, telling paidContents Rafat Ali that it’s not planning any major layoffs, though it is doing a “re-alignment” (not to be interepreted as a sole focus on the U.S. market). beyondnessofthings accepts that Joost may not be refocusing its activity to the extent outlined in the Sunday Times report, but stands by the comments stated above.





Hulu: thin on content, high on usability

11 11 2007

Online Video Watch gives its verdict on the Hulu private beta over in this post. The service scores highly for ease-of-use and discoverability of content, but poorly for the extent of the content offer itself.

However, that may be about to change, says the Hollywood Reporter, revealing that Warner Brothers Television is in discussions with Hulu, which will likely see a selection of its catalogue added alongside that from Sony and MGM, as well as Hulu co-founders NewsCorp. (Fox) and NBC Universal.

In related news, paidContent offers a pretty blunt assessment of NBCDirect.com, a new TV downloads service which offers content for seven days from broadcast and viewing for 48 hours once first played.





Hulu bows today

29 10 2007

One of the most eagerly-anticipated online video launches Hulu, the tie-up between NBC Universal and NewsCorp., launches in private beta later today, following a week of preview access for journalists and analysts.

The service rolls out with most of the trailed features, reports Variety, including the ability for users to share entire shows or just clips of them with eachother.

Hulu has also inked a deal with Sony Pictures Television for 40 TV series, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios for an undisclosed number of series and movies.

All featured series will run with two minutes of commercials per hour, in the form of unskippable 15 and 30-second spots.