NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc., engaged in a public copyright battle with Google Inc.’s YouTube, has agreed to offer videos to Joost, the Internet video service created by the founders of Skype and Kazaa.
Viacom said on Tuesday hundreds of hours of TV programing from its MTV and BET Networks and feature-length films from Paramount Pictures will be available to Joost users for free under a revenue-sharing deal between the two companies.
It did not disclose financial terms, but an industry source said Viacom was likely to have secured a slightly better agreement than its traditional deals to receive two-thirds of advertising revenue.
Joost, which launched in January, was designed from the start to license professionally produced programing whereas YouTube was primarily designed for users to share home videos, though it has evolved into the Internet’s biggest aggregator of TV and movie clips.
Joost said more deals with both big media and independent producers will be announced in the coming weeks. The site already has licensing agreements with Warner Music Group and TV production company Endemol.
“The world is ready for us,” Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, Joost’s vice president of content strategy and acquisition, said in a phone interview. “It’s the perfect moment to launch a global online distribution platform.”
For Viacom, the timing could not be better. The deal comes amid its public spat with YouTube over protecting copyrighted material. After failing to reach a distribution deal, Viacom in early February demanded YouTube pull down over 100,000 video clips that were uploaded by users without authorization.
Viacom and other media companies are also clashing with YouTube over its policy of restricting access to technology it is developing to identify pirated programing.
Viacom, News Corp. and General Electric’s NBC Universal have discussed launching their own joint competitor to YouTube, but industry sources said earlier that differing interests have stalled plans.
Traditional media companies are courting online users as viewers split their leisure time surfing the Web and digital media devices like Apple Inc.’s iPod.
Joost, which uses Internet peer-to-peer file sharing technology to deliver videos, was founded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, two Scandinavian entrepreneurs whose past projects like Web phone service Skype and file-sharing network Kazaa have shaken the media and communications industries.
Joost does not disclose viewership figures yet, but it is likely paltry compared to the two-year-old YouTube’s estimated 100 million daily views.
Thijm said she did not see Joost as a rival for YouTube as the latter mainly offers 10-minute videos that act as promotional clips for big media, whereas Joost seeks to be an alternative to traditional television by offering full-length programing.
The company said it serves an untapped market in offering entire episodes or movies in a secure environment in an advertising-supported basis.
“We’re steadily signing up a stream of content owners,” Thijm said.