The buzz in the online vid biz is that Joost, a once touted video portal, might be headed for a buyout. After two years of going it alone, the company is rumored to be in talks with Time Warner Cable and satellite providers for a possible deal, reports CNet’s anonymous source.

Though this is still considered speculation (a Joost spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on rumors), it’s fair to say the company has seen its share of ups and downs. When Joost launched in 2007, it was touted as the visionary harbinger for the future of television. Instead of following in the footsteps of the browser-based video sites like YouTube, the ad-supported service initially relied on peer-to-peer tech and a desktop client to deliver its content. Despite closing deals with Paramount Pictures, Viacom, CBS, and Warner Music, the site has seen roller coaster traffic levels, executive shakeups, and a site relaunch that ultimately scrubbed its desktop client.

Meanwhile, competitors like YouTube and Hulu have continued to grow and secure highly coveted content and ad deals. This shift in power was highlighted earlier this month by Sony Pictures squashing its content deal with Joost.

The sum of these details inevitably brings us back to the central question: How likely is Joost to hit the chopping block, really? Even with CEO Mike Volpi’s rallying post to the company blog yesterday, the loss of content partners like Sony (who is cozying up to YouTube in the meantime) doesn’t bode well. Still, Volpi’s blog post draws on some interesting points about Joost’s direction. Though he offers vague nods to the site’s critics, he follows with a laundry list of planned advancements to the platform. An excerpt from Volpi’s post can be found below:

  • We’re improving the quality of our video, to bring you more bit rate and dpi options. In the near future, we’ll have three streams that you can choose from – high quality, standard quality, and optimized quality.
  • We’re continuing to play with the design of our website. We make subtle changes every week or so, based on our user feedback – and sometimes the changes are more significant. It’s safe to say that in a year, our site will look radically different than it does today.
  • We’re pursuing an aggressive syndication strategy. While our focus is on the Joost experience on the computer, we’re working with a number of different partners to bring Joost to you via a number of different devices.
  • And, of course, we continue to add new content partners to our library. In Europe, we’ll add more native-language programming, and will introduce native-language versions of Joost in some countries.

It’s worth noting that Volpi dances around the issue of content. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that Joost is just light on content deals after Sony’s exodus. However, one could posit that Volpi’s tech focus seems much more indicative of a platform buildout in anticipation of a sale. After all, if content is king in the online video space, then delivery method is queen. Joost has invested a great deal in its backend, and even with its shrinking catalog that has to be worth something. Building on that value in the interim (while possibly searching for a suitor) makes a lot more sense than endlessly chasing the fickle fascinations of content partners.

Does this guarantee that Joost is in hushed meetings for a quick sell off? Hardly. As anyone who follows the tech industry knows, companies with mutual interests talk . However, that doesn’t always mean the ship is sinking. After all, CBS Interactive president Quincy Smith has mentioned numerous times that the company chats regularly with Hulu, but as we’ve clearly seen, that doesn’t guarantee that a deal is waiting in the wings.

Regardless of Joost’s future plans (endgame or otherwise), it had better gets its pieces in line quick. The popularity of online video is spreading like a wildfire, and although YouTube and Hulu have emerged as early front runners, there’s still plenty of room for disruption in the market.

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