Joost merges TV with Web

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Choosing a show to watch just got more difficult, as new online programming platform Joost offers free on-demand content.

With partners including Viacom, CBS and Turner Broadcasting, Joost hopes to change the way consumers watch television, merging online tools and advertising models with traditional content.

"People still want long form and high quality production," said David Clark, general manager for North America and executive vice president of advertising at Joost. "The difference with Joost is that it gives viewers the choice and control over what they watch and when they watch it."

The Internet television service, which is currently in invite-only beta, plans to launch in full in the next couple of months. It was founded by Skype and Kazaa co-founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.

Joost is not limited to big-name producers. According to Mr. Clark, Joost aims to carry niche programming for every interest.

On www.joost.com, users create a profile and personalize viewing features, such as links to more information or related Web sites and a variety of plug-in applications, such as instant messaging, message boards and news tickers.

As Joost is trying to bring together the benefits of the Internet with those of TV, so it aims to come up with new advertising models based on the combination. The Coca-Cola Co., Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Nike have signed on as advertisers.

"There is really not a good ad model for online video yet and the industry needs to test different models," Mr. Clark said.

One advertising format is the sponsored show, in which one advertiser hosts the entire program. On Joost, a banner runs for five seconds before the show with a "brought to you by" cue card. In the middle of the show, a 30-second ad, which users cannot bypass, will run when there is a plotline break.

"This is an attempt to give the stage back to the ad and remove the clutter," Mr. Clark said.

Joost is also using interactive advertising methods such as overlays and ad bugs, where a consumer can click from an ad to a link. Sony Pictures used this technique to promote "Spider-Man 3." Consumers could link directly to Sony's site to see a full trailer or purchase tickets to a showing.

As the advertising model develops, expect Joost as a whole to evolve as consumers, programmers and advertisers alike begin to engage with it.

"It took 50 years to create TV 1.0," Mr. Clark said. "TV 2.0 will not happen overnight."

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