Online TV Takes Off

Call it a TV/Internet hybrid. Think of it as a broadband channel. However you “view” it, online TV is taking off.

Since the introduction of the ManiaTV! Network last year, then the only online TV network of its kind, online TV has received both media and consumer attention. That’s partly because a groundbreaking network of a more traditional breed is now involved.

Last month, MTV launched MTV Overdrive, a six-channel hybrid platform that delivers music videos, artist interviews, MTV News updates, and original short-form programming to broadband Internet users via Windows Media Player.

The vehicle was developed in part because MTV has been filling primetime TV slots with reality shows, leaving little room for the network’s trademark music videos. That its young consumer audience spends more time online than ever was certainly a factor as well. Last year, Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) reported 18 million American teens use the Internet. That number is expected to reach 22 million by 2008. It also found teens aged 13-17 spend an average seven hours online per week, compared with nine hours watching TV.

MTV isn’t the only company to realize online’s value and necessity. Music Plus TV (MPTV) launches its 24-hour online cable TV network this June.

In addition to streaming popular videos, the station will increase exposure of independent, underground, and undiscovered musicians and bands. Company cofounder and CEO Marc Cubas says the idea was conceived about two years ago. He was “tired of the redundant programming and top 40 playlists that are characteristic of major music television networks.” The Internet is a means to showcase lesser-known artists on a global level.

Such businesses offer marketers a bevy of new opportunities. Those eager to meld TV’s flash and familiarity with the Web’s reach and interactivity need look no further than online TV networks.

ManiaTV offers “online broadcast commercials” on a CPM (define) basis, while allowing users to shape its content via requests and original content submissions. It currently delivers to one million unique viewers per month. Founder and CEO Drew Massey says his audience is growing fast; so is the network’s roster of advertisers, which includes DaimlerChrysler, Dell, Levi’s, Norelco, and The Princeton Review.

MTV Overdrive sells program-intro sponsorships, along with :15 and :30 in-stream ad placements, on a run-of-site (ROS) basis and in its Sponsor Area. (It will, however, encourage the shorter ads to better mesh with its truncated content clips.) Overdrive allows users to customize their viewing experience by creating their own playlists. It counts Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and Sony among its advertising clients.

When it launches next month, MPTV will likely attract the type of advertisers who once would have scoffed at the idea of advertising on online TV. The product will mingle content with short commercial spots, as well as offer site banners in moderation. Advertisers will be able to sponsor content, too. Cubas says the network will launch with about six months’ of prerecorded programming, combined with live daily content.

Though MPTV isn’t yet sharing rate information, the channel will give advertisers a chance to test the network for free before committing to a campaign. After that, opportunities and associated rates can be customized to their needs.

For some time now, media buyers have sought cross-media style placements that allow them to reach and influence the increasingly elusive TV audience in an online, interactive setting. With sister-medium online video thriving, both in terms of advertising and the proliferation of new video search products, the timing couldn’t be better for this fresh new industry — or a little friendly competition.

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