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Joost Retreats From Consumer Online TV Strategy

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

As part of the reorganization, former Comcast executive Matt Zelesko, currently senior vice president of engineering at Joost, will take over as CEO while continuing to lead the engineering organization. Zelesko, who joined Joost in October 2007, previously was vice president of engineering for Comcast Interactive Media.

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

In another executive change, Stacey Seltzer, currently senior vice president of international business development and content acquisition at Joost, will run the business operations.

"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. "After much analysis, we have decided to change our focus and to start providing white-label online video platforms for media companies and distributors. We have built a solid technology platform that there is demand for in the marketplace, and look forward to this new chapter for our company."

Joost said it will reorganize and restructure its business, retaining a core team in New York and London that will work on providing services for media companies, as well as operating and supporting and its associated video applications. Joost will wind down operations in its development center in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Joost spokeswoman Kerry Vance said there will be layoffs associated with the company's refocusing, but noted 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, venture-capital firms Index Ventures and 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.