Opinion: Joost’s magic million heralds a bright future for online TV

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stu-mugshot2.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

On British TV, a million viewers isn’t anything to shout about unless you’re a niche digital channel. But online, news that Telly 2.0 service Joost has signed up over a million users will be greeted by cheers.

The service, which is still in beta, can now legitimately claim it has momentum – an important weapon in the war to sign up more users, and also negotiate deals to get better and higher-profile content for its service.

Equally important is Joost’s ability to mine the behaviour of those first million subscribers, to find out what they’re watching, how long they’re watching it for, and how much they’re using the service’s interactive aspects. When it comes to selling advertising, this stuff is gold.

joost-column.jpgSince finally getting my Joost login last week, I’ve been impressed by the service, and particularly how slickly it works, in terms of navigating between channels, setting up my own list of favourites, and the overall look and feel.

Assuming everyone agrees with me (and since this is an opinion column, that’s obviously my default assumption), it’s a fair bet that a good proportion of Joost’s first million users will stick with the service, even if the more savvy users are also trialling rival services like Babelgum and VeohTV to see which they like best.

The coming months will see more Big Media shows making their way onto Joost, which as I’ve suggested before, isn’t entirely a good thing, even if they do help the service build credibility. We should also see how the feedback from the initial batch of Joosters is used to evolve the service, with new features and tweaks.

The million figure will hopefully also grab the attention of developers, who can start building applications and services around Joost’s core offering. I’ve just found out this week about OnTheToob, which lets you build your own custom channels for friends to watch, for example. More of this sort of thing will help Joost grow, and help keep those first million users loyal as they get more experienced (and demanding).

Numbers can be used to tell many different stories. Microsoft has sold a million Zunes, but many people react by sneering at how long it took. Nevertheless, for Joost, that first million is a big leap forward in terms of its reputation. It’s even good news for its rivals too.

Broadcasters and internet users alike are wondering if online TV has a big future. A million people signed up to just one of the Telly 2.0 startups says it has.

Stuart Dredge is editor-in-chief of Tech Digest, and still watches the Long Blondes’ gig on Rockworld’s Joost channel once a day, just to feel young and indie again.

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Stuart Dredge