NBC Sets Sights On Niche Video Audiences

NBC Universal’s investment in driverTV, announced yesterday, is more than just another digital media investment by a major media company. Chief digital officer George Kliavkoff said it’s also the first in a series of moves by NBC to lure niche audiences with well-produced video content.

Kliavkoff told ClickZ the new strategy will involve both the aggregation of existing content and the creation of new material geared toward important ad categories. He said those categories won’t necessarily focus on products, but rather will speak to “things that people are passionate about or have affinities for, that also happen to fit the criteria for a top advertising category that we think is underserved by professional quality video.

“For us this is only one of multiple business models that we’re going to embrace to create niche digital networks,” Kliavkoff said, comparing the initiative to how NBC built cable networks. “It’s focused on creating great high quality programs that attract the audience in that niche. What we’ve tried to do is replicate that model.”

A related announcement may come as early as this week, he said. In niches where NBC owns endemic content, NBC will aggregate that material to create a new network. In areas where it doesn’t, Kliavkoff said NBCU will invest in creating original programming for these niche networks.

The investment deal, under which NBCU will claim a 35 percent stake in the New York-based driverTV, will see distribution of the firm’s manufacturer-approved auto videos on NBC.com and possibly other NBC owned properties. DriverTV also announced a deal to distribute the clips on MySpace TV as a branded channel there.

Two-year-old driverTV produces its car-specific video content for multiple platforms, but has mainly focused on video on demand deals with major cable players including Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and The Hotel Network. It also operates a Web site at driverTV.com.

DriverTV owns the content and cuts distribution deals directly with cable and Internet partners. The auto manufacturers are permitted to approve the content for accuracy.

“We own it but they have some usage rights,” said Jan Renner, CEO and founder of driverTV. Renner said car companies view the firm’s content as both media and advertising.

“It’s all very neutral, just-the-facts content,” Renner said. “[Manufacturers] don’t feel intimidated by it because it is editorial-neutral.” He said in the view of advertisers a video view “results in a hand-raising event,” moving consumers further down the purchase funnel.

Ad products available on driveTV.com will be familiar to Detroit media buyers. Marketers can buy placements on their own brand and detail pages, or on car comparison pages. Additional placements are available on category and budget listings pages.

DriverTV’s online deployments appear as an embedded player on partner sites. Specific models may be customized to match the site’s audience. An upscale demo could feature luxury cars, while a family demo might profile minivans.

NBC’s Kliavkoff said the network sees an additional opportunity for overnight programming from driverTV on its networks, which he referred to as “DVR Theater.” He said people might set their digital video recorders to record the content while they sleep.

The deal does not cover distribution on Hulu, the premium video site NBCU launched in joint venture with News Corp.

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