Tech Vendor to Lure TV Content Players with Ad Model

Tech vendor Ultramercial, which works with Salon.com and Time Magazine to offer free access to premium content via its “day pass” ad format, hopes to do the same thing for broadcasters and their first-run television programs.

“The model that we have is really designed around first-run shows that have commercial breaks and bringing those online with this explicit relationship,” said Paul Grusche, SVP of sales and marketing at Ultramercial.

The company’s new product, ViewPass, is set up to offer consumers a choice. Either they pay $1.99 or so to access the television show via sites like Google Video or iTunes, or they can watch sponsors’ ads to gain access to the content for free.

Unlike a pre-roll ad, which mimics the television experience somewhat, the ViewPass places a large interactive ad unit, which can include video but also requires the viewer to click, within each commercial break. Once the ad experience concludes, the viewer has the option of interacting with or clicking through on the ad. The viewer can also click to continue the free video experience.

“It sees like total insanity to us to bring a 30-second pod to the Internet,” said Dana Jones, Ultramercial’s founder and president. “The reason why the dollars are leaving television is the pod doesn’t work.”

In recent months, a variety of TV networks have begun offering their first-run content online, for a fee, making many programs available for download immediately after their broadcast debuts. So far, Ultramercial hasn’t signed up any broadcasters for ViewPass but says it’s discussing its offerings with “two of the four networks.” The company already has a relationship with ABC, which is testing a day pass for its ABC News Now content online.

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