Sundance Channel Embraces Advertising Online

Sundance Channel has created a sponsorship-supported mini-site to accompany a new environmentally focused block of cable programming called The Green. The site is part of an extensive redesign of Sundance’s entire Web presence and is being cited by the company as an example of its multiplatform digital strategy,

The new site is scheduled to debut March 26 while the cable programs will air April 17, four days before Earth Day 2007. The three-hour programming block, described by Sundance as being its “first regularly-scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment, is sponsored by Lexus and Citi Smith Barney.

“The launch of The Green’s mini-site… underscores how prominently Sundance Channel’s newest on-air franchise will be reflected on the Web,” said Sundance in announcing the new products.
The destination will include an exclusive blog by the producers of Treehugger.com, a popular environmental site. It will also have weekly webisodes featuring Simran Sethi, the host of The Green, as well as additional screenings and events hosted by Sethi in the virtual world Second Life, said Sundance.

The mini-site will also display an interactive map, dubbed “Eco-mmunity,” featuring environmentally-related sites, businesses and organizations the United States.

Sundance suggested the market for environmentally focused programming and online content is big and getting bigger. Sundance Channel, founded by actor Robert Redford, expects The Green and its accompanying Web site to draw a large number of Earth-minded viewers and Web surfers.

“With these environmental topics being featured so prominently on-air, on Sundance Channel’s Web site and on Treehugger.com, the audience is potentially huge,” said Treehugger.com founder and CEO Graham Hill in a prepared statement.

Christopher Barry, Sundance’s VP of digital media and business strategy, told ClickZ that advertising is something relatively new for Sundance.com.

“We moved to a sponsorship model in January,” said Barry. “When these sites go live you will see brand integration in the mini-site and also banner ads.” Barry said Lexus and Citi Smith Barney “at this point will be sponsoring the mini-site and on top of that they will receive banner ads.”

Barry said visitors to the new mini-site on March 26 will find sponsor integration throughout the whole thing and, on top of that, sponsors on a case-by -ase basis will also have banner interaction on the site, depending on the platform or deal we cut with them.” In the past, he noted, the Sundance site “had no advertising.”

Sundance Channel spokeswoman Kelly Waldrip told ClickZ the mini-site is just one of the many changes being made to the channel’s “SundanceChannel.com 2.0” upgraded Web site. “It’s a pretty big difference,” said Waldrip. “It’s much more interactive. There’s much more movement.”

The site is divided into a “Vision” section, focusing on the channel’s cable programming and including an upgraded schedule, large video library and new video player, as well as interactive mini-sites and a “Voice” section designed to be a place for viewers to discuss and otherwise interact.

Sundance said the site redesign was done in collaboration with agency Tender.

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