MTV Broadband Play Gives Life to 15-Second Spots

MTV Networks (MTVN) is pushing advertisers to stick with shorter video spots on its new broadband channel. And it’s having some success.

Execs report Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, and Sony Pictures have already secured :15 in-stream ad placements on the channel, which is called Overdrive. Though :30 spots have been sold as well, MTVN is optimistic it will maintain a steady volume of the shorter ads.

“I’m not against taking 30 seconds, but we really want to play with the format,” said Jason Hirschhorn, SVP of digital music and media at MTVN. “We’d like 15 second spots [from] the beginning. One of my frustrations is if you’re watching 30-second-long, one-minute-long [content], and you’re sitting through 30 second spots every time, it’s annoying.”

MTV Overdrive offers six distinct channels. The property aims to deliver high-bandwidth music and video content in a self-guided manner. Its audience can opt to view material from any of the channels in either a linear or mix-and-match format. Channels include news, music, “on TV,” and movies. Game culture and personal style channels are in the works.

Hirschhorn said MTVN wants to keep the ads-to-content ratio somewhere between 1:3 and 1:6. Since much of the material Overdrive will publish is short-form video, that means insisting advertisers produce truncated spots.

Securing big advertisers willing to create shorter, Web-only video ads is something of a sales coup for MTVN. Other publishers that have pursued :15 spots report little success. Most notably, this includes MSN, which early on expressed its preference for shorter-than-TV video ads but has wound up running mostly :30.

Although analysts and publishers have long preached the superiority of shorter video ads online, advertisers have continued to port their full-length TV spots to the Web channel.

“None of the sites want to take 30 seconds, because they don’t think the consumers want to sit through 30 seconds,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst with Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division). “But they haven’t had a choice.”

That may be changing, if MTVN’s success at pitching :15 is any indication. Of course, the experience of a single Web property in prelaunch doesn’t represent a trend. However, if the sale of these abbreviated spots on Overdrive remains steady, it could bode well for all short-form online video advertising.

“It could just be a sales coup for MTV,” said Elliott. “Or it could be they’re announcing this but will wind up having to take 30 seconds like all the rest. But — and this is what I’m hoping is true — it could just be a sign of maturity for this market. Maybe online video is now popular enough with advertisers that the sites have a bit of control.”

Its move into on-demand broadband video puts MTVN into direct competition with big online publishers such as Yahoo and MSN. Several years ago, the company attempted an online radio service with a similar emphasis on user control. Called SonicNet, it provided midquality audio streams that were programmed according to each listener’s stated preferences.

Some are saying the Viacom unit is late to the broadband table with Overdrive, but executives hope MTVN’s young audience will make up for its tardiness.

Related reading