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Internet television company Joost adds CNN to content, announces commercial launch

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) – Joost, a company attempting to broadcast television via the Internet, said Tuesday it had signed several new content distribution agreements, including one with Turner Broadcasting System Inc. to show CNN news and interview programs.

The company also announced its ”commercial availability” – which means it will allow beta testers to invite anyone to use the system.

”Later this month we will be completely open” and allow anyone to download the Joost software from the company’s Web site, said Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, the company’s top executive for content acquisition, in a telephone interview.

”This is the way you normally ramp up peer-to-peer software … and it’s a way to give our (beta tester) friends a little bit of a scoop.”

Joost – pronounced ”juiced” – was co-founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the entrepreneurs who upset the music industry with the Kazaa file-sharing service and then developed Skype, the Internet telephone system that was bought by eBay Inc. for at least US$2.6 billion in 2005.

Joost operates by distributing streaming video of shows from ”peer-to-peer,” or user-to-user, over the Internet. Consumers choose a channel via a software interface on their desktop that resembles a remote control. Like regular TV, it is free for viewers, and aims to be ad-supported.

In Tuesday’s deal, Joost said it will air episodes of ”Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and ”Robot Chicken” from Turner’s Adult Swim network, while it would air ”Larry King Live,” among other news and interview programs from Turner’s CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc.

Joost also announced several other content deals Tuesday: Sony will run episodes of several old TV series including ”Charlie’s Angels” and ”Starsky & Hutch” on Joost; Sports Illustrated will run photo shoots and programs about its swimsuit issue; the National Hockey League will broadcast vintage games and game highlights; and Hasbro will run old episodes of ”Transformers” and ”G.I. Joe.”

Joost has previously signed deals with Viacom Inc., Warner Music Group Corp. and CBS Corp; it has advertising trials with numerous companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Nike Inc., Microsoft Corp., Procter & Gamble Co., Sony Corp. and Visa.

Alberdingk Thijm said Joost was not aiming to be a venue for B-grade programming and reruns, pointing to CSI and Adult Swim programs as among the highest viewer ratings in the U.S. cable industry.

She could not disclose details of specific deals, but said ad revenues were shared between Joost and the content providers; while advertisers were charged on a per-view basis. Due to the nature of Joost’s Internet-based platform, ads are matched with appropriate content and views are exactly measured, she said.

Alberdingk Thijm said the company is still experimenting with when and how it will run ads, including short advertisements before or after programs, traditional 30-second ads in the middle of longer programs, and more experimental ideas such as ads that appear on the screen briefly and then fade away while a program is running.

Overall, she said, there would be less advertising than on regular TV.

Joost is seen as one of the many candidates to become a primary distributor of television and video to the Internet, competing against Google Inc.’ YouTube, Revver Inc., broadcasters’ own web sites, an as-yet unnamed cooperation between NBC and NewsCorp., and file-sharing programs such as BitTorrent, among others.

Joost is owned by Friis and Zennstrom via their Luxembourg-based Joost Operations SA, but it has offices in New York, London and Leiden, Netherlands, and expects to incorporate under the Joost name globally.

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On the Net:

www.joost.com

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