January 15, 2007 1:30 PM PST
Skype founders name new video start-up Joost
The two want people hungry for Internet entertainment to roost at Joost.
Company executives had referred to the new company for months by the codename "The Venice Project." They chose Joost because they like the ring of it, according to a spokeswoman. The word doesn't have any meaning in Danish or Swedish--Friis' and Zennström's respective native tongues.
The plan, according to Joost CEO Fredrik de Wahl, is to offer studios, cable stations and anyone else who wants to distribute high-quality video over the Internet, a fast, efficient and cheap distribution method. To do this, the company will rely on the peer-to-peer technology that helped Friis and Zennström build Skype and Kazaa.
Their sparkling track record of creating hit companies aside, Friis and Zennström face a crowded field of competitors, such as YouTube and Apple, which are already well on their way to establishing themselves as video-distribution platforms.
Most important, Joost has yet to strike any marquee partnerships with top film or TV producers. Without them, the company's challenge is a tough one: convincing studio executives and the like to turn over their content to Joost when it has yet to attract a big audience.
BitTorrent, the San Francisco-based distributor of a competing peer-to-peer company, is also vying to license technology to Internet video companies. Another threat could come from the growing number of sites that offer top cable and movie channels without permission. One such company, TVU Networks, made a splash last summer by offering soccer fans the ability to watch World Cup matches on their PC. For a while, TVU Networks was offering HBO, CNN, the Disney Channel and NBAtv before many of those companies forced TVU to cease the practice.
What Joost has going for it is that the software replicates the TV viewing experience better than many of the other companies trying to wed TV to the PC. And this is a time when Hollywood is experimenting with the Internet. During the past year, Warner Bros. cut distribution deals with Guba, a little-known video-sharing site, and BitTorrent, a company that many consider to be synonymous with digital piracy.
Joost's nifty technology may be enough to sway the entertainment industry to place a bet on proven winners in Friis and Zennström.
A menu allows users to switch channels with a click of a link. Users will also have TiVo-like control of the content and access to any show offered regardless of time of day. They can also can skip ahead or backward within a show.
The Luxembourg-based company will support itself with advertising, specifically Internet ads that behave just like TV commercials.
"These are the kind of ads that the TV industry and viewers understand," de Wahl said.