Heavy.com Joins Publisher Network Ranks

Joining the ranks of media companies forming their own ad networks, New York-based Heavy.com is starting one for video content. Like those others, Heavy hopes to monetize traffic to sites outside its own, and compete with ubiquitous ads served through the Google AdSense network.

The new Husky Network, launched in public beta, will allow publishers and bloggers to make money off their videos by having them supported with national brand advertisements similar to the clickable ads that surround the clips shown at Heavy.com.

Heavy refers to the CPM-based ad unit as the “Video Skin;” videos play in the center of the screen while wrapped in a stationary, billboard-type ad or sequence of ads. New Line Cinema is the first advertiser to sign up with the network, rolling out ad campaigns for the new films “Mr. Woodcock” and “Shoot ‘Em Up.”

“We’ve taken the video skin unit and said, `Now we can put it on video players anywhere,'” said Simon Assaad, co-founder and co-CEO of Heavy. “The publishers can make money out of our video skin unit as well.” The ad format works with any video player, including YouTube, Revver, Google and others. Advertisers will have access to “specific psychographics” and vertical networks that include music, gossip-entertainment and action sports.

Assaad said Newgrounds.com is one Web site that is taking part in the beta testing of the new network. “We are talking to about 30 other publishers who we expect to sign up and announce over the coming weeks,” he added. Heavy will take a 50 percent cut of the ad revenue, according to Assad, who expects the ads to be priced at CPMs of around $10 to $15.

Heavy is aimed primarily at 18- to 34-year old men. Advertisers on its broadband network include Coors, Nissan, Panasonic, Diesel, Axe, Sony and Nike. While the site is popular with its main demographic, Assaad acknowledged there are many other Web sites frequented by young men. “Not all guys are going to spend all their time with Heavy.com,” he said. “Some of their time is spent elsewhere.” Heavy hopes to earn revenue even when its loyal visitors wander off to other online locales and view videos supported with ads served by the Husky Network.

In creating the network, Heavy is joining other Web companies that recently launched ad networks, including Glam Media, Washington Post.com, NBC Universal-owned iVillage and, just last week, MSNBC.com, through a relationship with Pulse 360. In announcing its new “Publisher’s Vertical Network,” MSNBC said it aimed to give small sites an option other than ad networks like Google AdSense.

Assaad said there is a big demand for ways to monetize Web content, including video. “What is happening is there’s been this explosion of publishers and video makers on the Web with the easy availability of cheap and easy-to-use technology to build sites and make videos,” said Assaad. While these publishers can easily set up sites and post videos, they lack the ability to sell ads, he said. “I am selling really premium advertising across a network of smaller sites that just don’t have the infrastructure to sell their own advertising,” said Assaad.

He said the key to the network’s success will be its ability to aggregate. For example, Assaad said a small, independent Web site that publishes action sports videos might be able to attract up to 400,000 unique users monthly, not enough to justify an in-house sales team. “But there are a lot of advertisers who want to be around action sports,” he said. “So maybe we have a million people a month that go to our action sports channels on Heavy. But if we can gain another two or three million by aggregating [with sites outside of Heavy], that would make it one-stop shopping.”

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