• Joost Names Volpi CEO, Things are About to Get More Interesting


    Today Joost announced that Mike Volpi, formerly a long time senior executive of Cisco, would become its new CEO.
    The NY Times has a story with a couple of noteworthy quotes from Volpi that give a window into how interesting things are about to become.
    "Joost is a piece of software and it can reside on a variety of platforms," he said. "It could be on a television set-top box. Or potentially it could be imbedded in a TV set with an Ethernet connection, or on a mobile phone, or in some alternative device that might come out in the future. The flexibility is really high."
    Would that be a cable set-top box or one possibly made by Apple, Linksys or Sony, perhaps? I'd bet on the latter possibilities. Of all the broadband video aggregators, Joost is most clearly positioning itself to be a new competitor to cable and satellite operators.
    "Content owners don't care where content is distributed so long as it reaches a larger number of users who can be monetized."
    Well, sort of. What content providers care most about these days is doing no additional harm to their already perilous existing revenue streams. If doing a deal to distribute content through Joost is neutral to potentially positive, they'll do it. If it's neutral to potentially negative vis-a--vis current relationships, they won't do it. I believe they'll get all the broadcasters to sign up with them. But the big challenge is whether they can get cable networks to give them their best prime-time programming, available at the same time it's available on cable.
    Even if cable networks can do this (and that's an "if" yet to be unraveled by scads of lawyers), it may not be a good business decision to do so. To my knowledge, Joost isn't paying the precious monthly affiliate fees which are the lifeblood of cable networks. Do a deal with Joost for no fees and you run the risk that existing paying customers (i.e. cable and satellite operators) might just want the same deal next time you meet at the negotiating table. Volpi knows cable operators like the back of his hand. Cisco's made billions supplying them networking gear to power their broadband networks for years and more recently digital cable gear from Scientific Atlanta. Now Volpi needs to convince cable operators' programming suppliers to work with him. This will be interesting to watch.