Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have not been twiddling their thumbs since selling Skype to eBay. Their new effort, originally called the Venice Project, was renamed Joost in mid-January. Their beta-test invitation letter was not shy about the project's goals. "We're working on a project that we think will completely revolutionize television. Combining the best features of TV with the powerful social features of the internet, The Venice Project will give TV viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before." The beta uses "secure P2P streaming technology that allows content owners to bring TV-quality video and ease of use to a TV-sized audience mixed with all the wonders of the internet."
Joost has recently released version 0.8 of their beta player for Windows and also the first Mac beta which is only for Intel Macs. Joost is going to be an advertising supported service and platform.
Joost is not the only player trying to "usher in a new era for television". Silvio Scaglia, founder and major shareholder in Fastweb, is also exploring the potential of next-generation TV over the Internet using P2P technology. Scaglia's new baby is Babelgum where he is Co-founder and Chairman of the Board. The company's stated goal is "to create a global, personal, open, free, TV-like new media". The service is currently in closed beta, with a next release later in February and open beta in March. Co-founder and CEO Erik Lumer describes Babelgum in his blog as the "Rocking Chair Experience"--the right balance for the user of "lean forward" and "lean back".
One of the questions regarding these services has been which content providers would make their content available over these mechanisms. Joost has a licensing deal with Warner Music and recently Viacom was added. Viacom had ordered its content to be pulled from YouTube several weeks previously. Viacom then announced a licensing deal with Joost for hundreds of hours of Viacom programming; MTV Networks, BET Networks and Paramount Pictures will provide television and theatrical programming on the Joost platform. Although financial details were not disclosed, similar deals in the past have yielded two-thirds of the advertising revenue to Viacom.
With all this innovation around video downloading, the unanswered question is "Who is going to pay the bill for the bandwidth broadband providers will need to keep adding to support streaming video?"