Turmoil at Joost as CTO sacked then hired by BBC on the same day

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Is Joost going to last the year? The P2P TV yesterday confirmed it had fired CTO Dirk-Willem van Gulik, who then promptly turned up as a new hire at the BBC on the same day. He will be chief technical architect of the BBC Future Media and Technology Group, which is working on – guess what – the BBC iPlayer online TV project.

A Joost spokesperson in the US told newteevee that Gulik was “terminated” (ouch!) but a press release on the BBC site published yesterday says Gulik will take his new post in early February and be responsible for the design and construction of the BBC’s next generation back-end infrastructure. Gulik is based in Holland will remain a consultant to and an investor in Joost.

Joost has since said Matt Zelesko (with the firm since October) will be the new senior vice president of engineering, based in Joost’s New York office, where much of Joost is now located.

What is it with tech companies losing out to the grand old BBC all of a sudden? Last year I blogged how, six months after leaving Microsoft, BBC future media and technology controller Erik Huggers claimed he actually had to leave Microsoft in order to innovate. Huggers is the guy who just hired Gulik.
Meanwhile, an anonymous commenter on newteevee claiming to be a “true Joost insider” writes:

“Yes, Joost is indeed having trouble. The main problem is that there is only very limited adoption among the user community. Far fewer people connect to the system than was originally hoped. Of course, this is mainly due to quality the content (or rather, lack thereof). It turns out that a lot of people download it once, then find out that there is nothing really good on there, then just never reconnect again. Or only sporadically, just to be reassured that there still is nothing interesting….If it takes a user hours and hours to sift through a myriad of unwanted junk videos (frankly, that is what is up there right now), just to find ONE video that moderately interests you, then the viewing experience is not much better than going on a file sharing program to dig it out.”

Whether this person is from Joost or not, I’d happily agree that this is my experience of Joost too. I’m sure Joost seemed like a good idea at the time, when web video was still pretty low quality. But having connected a Mac mini to my TV and watched whole shows on YouTube and the BBC iPlayer, it would seem that Web video has beaten a heavyweight P2P software download like Joost to the punch. This will especially be the case when YouTube switches on H264 encoding which will dramatically increase quality.

Structural changes in the online video market like this suggest to me that Joost won’t last the year.

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