Winstar’s Video Network to Launch Ads Soon

Winstar Interactive has launched an online video ad network, offering Web video ad sales representation for its publisher clients with plans to develop vertical content channels in the future.

The Interactive Video Network (IVN), made up of 15 sites at launch, will begin running a number of advertiser campaigns in the next several weeks. One of the first will be a Warner Bros. campaign set to launch June 1 on consumer-generated media (CGM) site Vmix, according to IVN President Kevin Gianatiempo.

“The initial push really is for site-specific representation,” Gianatiempo told ClickZ. However, he said the firm is in talks with video content providers in order to build out vertical channels featuring category-specific content such as technology- or entertainment-related video.

Included in the network are current Winstar clients A&E Television Network, AccuRadio.com, Biography.com, FHM Magazine Online, CGM video site GoFish, History Channel, MrMovieTimes, and Popular Mechanics. IVN pegs the network’s total unique monthly users at over 10 million and total available monthly streaming pre-roll ad impressions at 50 million.

IVN also handles ad management and reporting for video publishers and can accommodate all types of video files and media players. Through IVN, advertisers can buy sponsorships, impression-based takeover or road block ads, create customized branded looks for video players, and enable interactive ad components.

IVN member Vmix allows users to incorporate licensed film footage and music into their creations, which can be uploaded to the Vmix site. The company has sold all of its available pre-roll inventory for June through IVN, as well as other graphic ad placements through Winstar, according to Terry Ash, EVP and co-founder of Vmix. “I anticipate for the 4th quarter we’ll probably be 100-percent pre-sold out by the first week in October,” he predicted. Eight more pre-roll campaigns sold through IVN are planned for the site.

The network can provide geo-targeting, dayparting, and other targeting options as well as frequency-capping, though Gianatiempo expressed concern that too much audience slicing and dicing could hamper IVN’s ability to offer adequate inventory to advertisers.

“In all honesty, I prefer not to offer [targeting] at this point,” he said. “We’re trying to create critical mass from our inventory.” Some sites have trouble monetizing all possible ad impressions because of frequency caps, which are often set up to ensure that users are not bombarded with too many ads. “I don’t think a lot of these sites have enough advertisers to even monetize the inventory they have with frequency capping in place,” Gianatiempo said.

One way IVN is hoping to supplement its inventory is by allowing video distributors to sell remnant ad space through its upcoming blind network of vertical content channels. For instance, suggested Gianatiempo, local travel video producer and IVN site TurnHere could become part of the network’s entertainment or travel channel. “Sites can reside in multiple channels,” he added.

CGM video distribution site GoFish started working with IVN when it launched. “The reason to go to a site rep is to get brands to understand your site,” said Greg Consiglio, VP of business development at GoFish. “The interesting thing is not a lot of publishers in the user-generated space are playing in the pre-roll space right now.”

GoFish has been enabling pre-roll ads on its site since Q4 of last year by selling through blind ad networks. Lionsgate Films has been promoting its new flick “See No Evil” on the site over the past 10 days; and other GoFish pre-roll advertisers have included American Express, General Motors, Nokia and AOL Music.

Running the risk of placing ads within questionable user-generated content is an issue of concern to advertisers, said Gianatiempo. “In a section that would be sponsored we would absolutely moderate any content before it goes live,” he said . Inappropriate content can also be tagged as such so it won’t be included in a run-of-site buy.

Unlike other Web video networks, IVN is not distributing or producing video content, rather its focus is on site-specific pre-roll video ad sales representation. IVN officially got started in January. Before the division was formed, Winstar ran video ads on The History Channel, The Biography Channel and A&E Television Network.

Join ClickZ’s Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.

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