Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Joost is Not the Future of Television...

This week is the 80th anniversary of the first long-distance television broadcast. TV has become so entrenched in our culture that if given the choice between giving up sex or television for the rest of your life, the timeless act of procreation would lose out for a surprising number of people.

Coinciding with this historic anniversary, Joost - the internet television startup - has begun beta testing open to the public. The idea behind Joost is to watch TV through your internet connection, and it's been getting hyped for months because it struck a deal with Viacom so that users can actually watch "real" professionally produced shows like CSI and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as opposed to amateurish YouTube clips. Now, Joost is finally available, by invite only - which has to be one of the most brilliant promotional marketing strategies ever. Despite the myriad of well-publicized complaints that there's not enough content to watch yet, I find myself spending hours of otherwise productive time Googling ways to get kicked down an invite.

Is Joost the future of television? No. While it is certain to meet a burgeoning market demand for greater convergence of television and the internet, what Joost promises is, in reality, nothing new. It's basically cable TV, simply delivered through different pipes into your living room. By and large, the shows you watch are going to be the same traditional programming offered by the major networks and multi-billion dollar media conglomerates. The only thing that sets Joost apart is the manner of delivery.

What a waste. Sure, they're going to rake in serious advertising bucks, but Joost fails to take advantage of the immeasurable possibilities that the internet and computing provides. There's a reason why YouTube is so wildly popular - people are clamoring for more variety, and that manifests itself in sometimes uniquely original, sometimes wildly odd, forms of programmming. Nobody is going to get excited about the next cookie-cutter CBS sitcom - regardless of whether you watch it through cable or the internet. People are sick of TV programming that caters to the lowest common denominator.

In the past, we watched anyway because ultimately, unless we were willing to turn off the dial and (gasp) read a book, we had no choice. But choice and variety and diversity are really what the internet's all about. Joost has utterly failed to grasp that concept.

So who's got my invitation?


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