AOL's connected TV app, AOL On Network, is getting a new look and expanding to more platforms with a new video ad-serving capability today. For a company that's always been online and more recently ventured into mobile, AOL hopes the connected TV space will live up to its early projections for rampant growth and provide it with an opportunity to round out its cross-platform, multi-device strategy.
For advertisers and content partners, "we can be that one-stop shop that allows distribution across multiple screens," said Rob DelaCruz, general manager of connected TV and mobile video at the AOL On Network. Single campaigns can now be deployed across multiple screens with a single media buy, he added.
While subscription-based TV services like Netflix and Hulu have "historically been the large footprint platforms" on connected devices of all types, there are still relatively few ad-supported standouts.
"No one is really taking advantage of the ad-supported video business out there," DelaCruz added. While some digital video platforms are focused on bringing the entire online experience to other devices, AOL is purposefully leaving social media and tracking mechanisms out of the equation. Although there is a natural inclination to want to track users online, DelaCruz believes there's little room for that in today's connected TV landscape.
"We wanted to make it as natural a transition as possible," he said, and that extends to AOL's advertising strategy as well. AOL On Network will feature high-definition video ads in 15- or 30-second slots at a frequency that can be adjusted, but viewers will typically see ads every 15 minutes, DelaCruz said. "You don't want to over monetize such a nascent market right now. That's my personal take. You want users to explore and watch the content... I don't want to scare them off right now."
When AOL's connected TV app got off the ground about a year ago, it featured a simple user interface that packaged AOL-owned content for a lean-back TV viewing experience. With a revamped user experience and the ability to dynamically insert high-definition video ads, the second version features content from AOL properties such as Moviefone, Engadget and HuffPost Entertainment, and video from its content partners like Reuters, the Associated Press, BBC, Entertainment Tonight and many others.
AOL's library already includes more than 380,000 short-form videos and it plans to add at least 100 new videos to the platform every day. The company sees an increasingly vast potential for new business and eyeballs on connected televisions, and the upgrades to AOL On Network are "indicative of the opportunity" said DelaCruz.
In addition to Samsung Smart TVs, Roku and Sony, the upgraded AOL On Network app will also be released for TiVo Premiere DVRs later this month.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.
March 19, 2014