Joost Shifts Its Online TV Strategy

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Internet TV startup Joost has thrown in the towel on its direct-to-consumer online video play, announcing last week that it will refocus its efforts on providing a white-label platform for media companies.

Matt Zelesko, currently senior vice president of engineering at Joost, will take over as CEO while continuing to lead the engineering organization. Zelesko, before he joined Joost in October 2007, was vice president of engineering for Comcast Interactive Media.

Mike Volpi stepped down as CEO of Joost but will remain chairman. Volpi joined Joost in mid-2007; he had been in charge of Cisco Systems' service-provider technology group, which included Scientific Atlanta.

“In these tough economic times, it's been increasingly challenging to operate as an independent, ad-supported online video platform,” Volpi said in announcing the reorganization.

Joost spokeswoman Kerry Vance said there will be layoffs associated with the change in strategy, but it was too soon to say how big the reduction would be.

Time Warner Cable had been rumored to be in talks to acquire Joost, while Comcast reportedly passed on the startup's overtures to sell itself.

Joost's investors include Viacom, CBS, Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Chinese multibillionaire Li Ka-Shing. The company was founded in January 2006 by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the creators of Internet-phone software Skype.

Joost initially launched with a proprietary peer-to-peer software client, claiming it would provide more efficient distribution than server-based video services, before scrapping that application last year and moving to a Web-only model.