Blog Post

The Joost Problem: American ‘Broadband’

Joost, despite an early lead when it comes to the P2P television is beginning to get some criticism about its video quality. A skeptical report on JoostTeam points out that the bit rate is about half that of video from DivX Stage6 or the iTunes Store. And even that resolution is inferior to standard definition digital video from cable providers.

joost_network_activity.jpgWhile Joost promises that they’re working on improving the quality, and touts the power of their advanced video compression codecs, there’s only so much that compression can do. The fundamental problem that Joost faces is the fact that the broadband available to North American households simply isn’t fast enough for them to provide image quality comparable to digital cable or satellite, much less high-definition video.

On my high-resolution, widescreen laptop monitor the blocky, pixelated quality is still clearer than the wildly distorted analog signal I receive through rabbit ears (which makes me wonder if an upgrade to digital rabbit ears will even work for me), so I’d still rather tune into Joost than turn on my TV. But nobody with a boss home theater is going to cancel their cable service to watch Internet streams of this quality.

My concern is that with DSL provider AT&T moving into IPTV, and cable Internet providers already delivering video, what little competition there is in America for consumer broadband providers, any incentive to increase speeds (especially the upstream bandwidth) could hit a wall of corporate self-interest. After all, why should companies like Comcast offer the kind of high speed broadband enjoyed in Europe and Asia when it would simply enable companies like Joost to compete with the company’s own digital video offerings?

Even if there is a significant increase in network speed, without any guarantees of network neutrality, Internet providers could simply charge Joost and other independent IPTV upstarts for the bandwidth rights to stream video of comparable quality to their own digital video offerings. And guess who that cost would get passed on to? That would be you. So while Joost has a lot of potential on other continents, the cards are stacked against the company here in the USA.

Screenshot of network traffic monitor with Joost running on my computer.

34 Responses to “The Joost Problem: American ‘Broadband’”

  1. tvjunkie

    Joost and Cable companies? Makes me laugh :-)

    Cable already has a stealth play in that space – they haven’t announced this but what do you think TellyTopia is doing?

    TellyTopia has built peer-to-peer built only for cable, a little birdie tells me. Once that gets launched, Joost could be history.

  2. Im confused. If Stage6 and iTunes are delivering video at twice the bitrate of Joost why are US bandwidth limitations such a problem for Joost. Doubling the bitrate for Joost should have a big effect on the quality. Methinks they may have other problems.

  3. Joost made tradeoffs that result in their saving money by reducing resolution. My company has overcome that problem, and are delivering, today, DVD quality over typical broadband of 700 kbps. To prove it, we are giving 90 day subscriptions to all our content, free, if you go to Try it, you’ll like it. WE may not have the hype the Europeans have with Joost, but we are delivering on the promise of iptv, today.

  4. It can’t be long before ISPs start to throttle over the top TV services. It is a threat to their own services and sucks bandwidth. It is almost a rerun of the IP telephony issue. Traffic shaping of IP services such as Skype is now common place.

  5. Don’t under estimate the rabbit ears. I get poor analog reception, but remarkably good digital reception with mine. Surprised me greatly, as like you, I expected the worst.

  6. Jackson – that is a great point in your comment. It is the personalization of media programming. Media companies and cable operators will be slow to respond to this because their current business models and processes would have to change dramatically.

  7. The critical constraint remains upload bandwidth. On average it’s about 300Kbps here in the US. That means higher quality video is going to be very difficult to deliver and scale to broadcast television size audiences.

    Streaming TV works only for content that can be comfortably watched at about 270Kbps. Football, movies and nature shows won’t show up well. But news, talk shows and soap operas — they’ll look fine on a small screen.

    We have to cut the coat to fit the cloth. The idea that HDTV will be delivered over broadband is not realistic.

  8. i still think basing a media business model on a player is flawed. The user is going to want to watch whenever and wherever they want to and not be limited to one player.

    This is why we chose the strategy of focusing on FEEDS (hence the name Mefeedia: ME + FEEDS + MEDIA). You can have HD feeds, portable feeds, web-based feeds – whatever you want – and those feeds can plug into set top boxes. It is the promise of your media, wherever you want – and media feeds are delivering that today.

  9. Thanks for pointing that out, Christian. I was curious what speeds were like outside the US.

    One thought that I didn’t include in the post is that what excites me about Joost (or, more accurately, what Joost represents) is the idea of a dumb, two-way network where anyone can start a channel or network of channels without too terribly much interference.

    I’m less interested in Joost in particular and more interested in the prospect of loosing the grip on one-way broadcast and the ability for companies to shape what content is and isn’t available to me, and what I can and can not publish.

  10. @ Robert I think the content is OK on Comcast’s On Demand service but the Scientific Altantic (Cisco) UI sucksComcast are forced to use that UI and even Joosts UI is better than it .

    Joost;s recently apointed CEO Mike Volpi was the Senior Vice President for Cisco Systems’ Service Provider Group and. Routing Technology Group before that he lead the Cisco M&A group he was also on the Board at Skype .

    So you have to wonder what Joost is up to here considering several VPs and Senior Managers at Joost previosly worked at MTV and now Viacom is a investor in Joost .

    Could Joost be part of a bigger strategy for Cisco who sell thier Scientific Atlanta boxes to cable companies and with Mike Volpi’s adress book Im sure it opens many doors for them .

  11. somwhat related:

    I must be a blockhead, Matt. I think Comcast On-Demand works GREAT. Sure, I’d like to see more content and more HD content, but it seems to be trending in the right direction and I loved Discovery Channel’s ‘Shark Week’ in HD, and on-demand.

    I agree that Joost/others will probably need to partner with the Cable (and Telcos) and to Jackson’s point, the “wall of corporate self-interest” may be hard to climb over.