Joost, the broadband video company, has revealed that it is planning to provide live television streams as well as its current range of video-on-demand programming. The company says it will begin testing its live streaming with programming providers in the first quarter of 2008. The chief executive of Joost insists “We’re not trying to replace TV”.

Speaking at the Mipcom programme market in Cannes, Mike Volpi said: “We create a niche to give viewers content they never had access to before.” He suggested that internet television increases the time audiences spend viewing rather than cannibalizing existing viewership. “Choice expands demand,” he said.

“Content owners’ business is not distribution, it’s making good content,” the former Cisco executive told producers who come to Cannes to pitch their programmes to broadcasters. He predicted that over the next ten years the internet would become the dominant way that people consume content.

The revelation about plans to offer live coverage came from Yvette Alberdingkthijm, the head of content strategy and acquisition at Joost. She indicated an intention to sign deals on European sports rights similar to that recently announced with Major League Baseball in the United States. Some might say that MLB is far from niche, at least in the United States. Joost has also done a deal with British news broadcaster ITN, which includes Premiership soccer highlights.

While Joost has attracted a great deal of media attention and focussed the minds of many media executives, the general consumer reaction has been critical of the limited range of programming currently on offer through its broadband video-on-demand service.

In turning its attention to live programming, Joost is following other peer-to-peer platforms such as Zattoo and LiveStation, both already providing trial services. Peer-to-peer delivery of live streams is rather different to distributing pre-recorded programming and remains more of a technical challenge.

Joost has indicated that it will also offer a catch-up option to watch coverage on demand following its live broadcast. Acquiring the online and on-demand rights to major sports coverage could be a challenge. “There’s some stuff up our sleeve actually,” Yvette told a reporter. “Obviously we’re talking to everybody who has sports rights.”

Meanwhile, Jerome Vashisht-Rota, the co-founder of DivX, says he hopes that Joost will be available as a plug-in on the D-Link DivX Connected HD Media Player device due to launch soon. The product will include support for the Stage6 DivX online video service.

Mike Volpi of Joost is on record saying that he would like Joost to be on devices that connect directly to the television set. He was previously at Cisco, where he ran the division that involved set-top box company Scientific Atlanta which was acquired in 2006.