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Sony Pictures is on YouTube, Hulu, but not Joost anymore

Licensing deal with Joost expires and studio doesn't renew. The struggles of the former high-flying video service continue.

At the same time Sony Pictures prepared to post some of its TV shows and films onto YouTube, the studio's material quietly began disappearing from Joost.

Earlier this month, Joost CEO Mike Volpi, who is attempting to engineer a comeback for the once high-flying company, wrote on the company's blog that Sony Pictures' shows were removed but was vague about why. He said that content from entertainment companies often comes and goes due to licensing restrictions and "we are optimistic that we'll be able to reach a new arrangement with Sony soon."

He can stop waiting. The licensing deal with Sony Pictures expired and the studio decided not to renew, according to industry sources. The reasons are not totally clear but one thing is certain, YouTube and Hulu are landing full-length content partnerships while the already thin Joost library shrinks.

Kerry Vance, a Joost spokeswoman, confirmed that the licensing deal with the studio ran out but said it "was a mutual business decision by both companies" to remove the content. Did Joost's anemic traffic have anything to do with it? Vance denied that. "We continue active conversations to reach a new agreement."

Whatever happened, this much is clear: Hulu and YouTube are much more like the Internet video service that Joost once promised to become.

Joost, is the brainchild of founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the duo that brought us Skype and Kazaa. They declared that Joost would one day deliver a reasonable facsimile of the TV-viewing experience to the Web. With the help of a downloadable peer-to-peer video client Joost was supposed to offer crystal-clear high-def images and be super simple to navigate.

As for offering the best shows and other video content, Viacom and CBS (parent company of CNET News) were investors, and these strong Hollywood links would help it acquire premium shows and films. Those things all occurred of course--at Hulu.

During the dark period, when Joost was wrestling with management shakeups and technology setbacks, Hulu pounced. Formed by NBC Universal and News Corp., Hulu provided the best streaming video on the Web and offered plenty of full-length episodes from hit TV shows, such as "24," "30 Rock" and "The Office."

Hulu began attracting the audience that Joost dreamed of.

Now, YouTube, Godzilla of Web video, is scoring full-length features and TV shows.

Is there room for a third top-tier player in this market? Maybe, but if Joost wants to hop into that spot, the company has to offer more, not less, content for viewers to watch.