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Joost juices up with animation partners

Poised to give YouTube a run for its money, internet TV upstart Joost has hooked up with a couple of kids industry heavies in a bid to bolster its unique positioning and market edge. Unlike YouTube, which has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to lure studios and prodcos onto its user-generated vehicle, Joost has included high-profile content and media companies in its mix right from inception.
June 1, 2007

Poised to give YouTube a run for its money, internet TV upstart Joost has hooked up with a couple of kids industry heavies in a bid to bolster its unique positioning and market edge. Unlike YouTube, which has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to lure studios and prodcos onto its user-generated vehicle, Joost has included high-profile content and media companies in its mix right from inception.

The site soft-launched in January and is currently in a second invite-only beta phase. There are aleady 150 channels running, with content partners including Turner, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Television, Sports Illustrated, NHL, Hasbro and Aardman Animations contributing from their libraries. And looking ahead, the company has partnered with L.A.-based talent agency CAA to wrangle even more programming through its relationships with networks and studios.

For its part, Hasbro made the decision to hook up with Joost for channels dedicated to vintage Transformers and G.I. Joe episodes based on audience migration. ‘One of the biggest changes over the last several years, and it will continue to change, is how our content gets distributed and where our audience is,’ says Bill Bornson, head of programming at the toyco.

The schedules of Joost’s other channels include a hefty amount of cartoons and animation, including Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken from Turner’s Adult Swim network, episodes of classic Spider-Man from Sony and Creature Comforts from Aardman. So clearly there’s an opportunity for animation producers with libraries that target a broad range of demographics.

And although Joost’s content is adult-focused so far, the service is sure to eventually grab the attention of keen kid viewers – and advertisers eager to reach them. Robin Gladman, digital rights manager at Aardman, says his studio doesn’t plan to add kids content to its Joost feed in the immediate future, but is certainly open to the idea if there seems to be a market demand for it in the space.

Although Gladman says Joost doesn’t pay its partners for content, which is offered to viewers at no cost, the deals center around sharing ad revenues. He adds that Aardman has complete creative control over how its programming is presented on the dedicated channel and works together with Joost to determine where to insert ads. ‘We have some short-form content, so we have to be careful that the ads aren’t too long, otherwise it could feel overcrowded,’ he explains.

Founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, the Scandinavian programming whizzes behind file-sharing program Kazaa and Skype, Joost’s model has attracted US$45 million in financing from independent capital firms and content owners such as CBS and Viacom. It has also brought in 32 advertisers to date, including Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Nike.

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