Just An Online Minute... Viacom Partners With MySpace: If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Former Viacom exec Tom Freston wasn't able to close a deal to buy MySpace, but the two companies have managed to partner for multi-media question and answer sessions with the presidential candidates.

In a deal announced today, MTV will collaborate with MySpace to broadcast discussions with the candidates, both on cable and the Web. The move follows the pattern set by CNN and YouTube, in which the companies leveraged the strengths of separate media for a presidential debate.

The frontrunners have all agreed to take part in the MTV/MySpace events, which will take place in real time on college campuses while they're broadcast on MTV and MTVu, and Webcast on MySpaceTV and MTV.com. The partnership will debut Sept. 27, with a conversation with former Sen. John Edwards.

As with the YouTube/CNN debates, people will be able to ask the candidates questions via the Web. While YouTube solicited questions in advance, in video form, MySpace is inviting users to instant message and e-mail their questions while the show is underway.

But the deal also differs from CNN/YouTube in that MySpace and MTV are clearly rivals for the same viewers. One of the reasons Freston was reportedly ousted from Viacom was because he failed to purchase the social networking site, instead allowing News Corp. to outbid him with a $580 million offer. At the same time, Viacom also hasn't been able to build a Web presence of its own to match either MySpace or YouTube -- with which it's now embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Apparently, someone at Viacom has decided that, at least in the absence of a robust online presence of its own, it's better to join with MySpace than attempt to fight it.