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Joost Silent On Report It's Shopping Itself, Time Warner Interested

This story was written by Robert Andrews.
Joost has given us a "no comment" to reports it's trying to sell itself. The site is pitching itself as an online video platform to cable and satellite providers, with Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable amongst those to have "expressed interest", according to anonymous sources cited by News.com. CEO Mike Volpi had said back in December: "Some time in 2009, we'll have to have a little more finance but specifically when depends on a lot of factors."

Is it timely that Volpi yesterday wrote a blog post trumpeting Joost's recent achievements? Five-fold traffic hike since abandoning the desktop player app, 15 million video views in March, "millions of hours" watched each month, improved discoverabiity, etc etc. Certainly sounds like an effort to pump Joost up - but only to mark the six months since the web-only relaunch, Volpi wrote. Still to come - "an aggressive syndication strategy", availability on new devices and more foreign-language programming.

Joost probably isn't making the traction it would like, at least against Hulu's US success and upcoming overseas launches, and the platform seems to have had a healthy share of naysayers from day one. But News.com's description of the service as "beleaguered" doesn't ring true, at least from the outside. Perhaps Joost's biggest crime was to launch, in 2007, in a desktop app, not a web-based service - but that was a symptom of the times: both BBC iPlayer, Babelgum and other video outfits launched on the desktop, too; now just look at the success of the former, if not quite the latter. The upgrade required intensive redevelopment investment and led to 14 redundancies.

It's also true to say Joost has for now lost Sony Pictures retro shows - but that's just one piece in the overall catalogue. Still, I like stumbling across old Transformers episodes as much as the next guy, but it is a catalogue that depends heavily on archive classics, rather than the premium shows and movies like those offered through Hulu and now YouTube. Joost's long tail will find its place in the evolving online video landscape and, through its investment from CBS (NYSE: CBS), could yet prove a pawn in that broadcaster's counter-Hulu strategy.

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By Robert Andrews

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