VentureBeat presents: AI Unleashed - An exclusive executive event for enterprise data leaders. Network and learn with industry peers. Learn More

lancepodellAs more and more of us are tuning in to video programming online, web video strategies are emerging to address the plentiful business and creative opportunities of the expanding market. At the highest level, you can whittle the key strategic visions down to two overarching models – there’s traditional TV programming that continues to migrate onto the Web for online viewing, and then there’s TV that’s designed and produced especially for the Internet. Clearly, Web TV is here to stay, and these two Web TV models have fairly distinct benefits that bring to light some of the trends we can expect to see more of over the next few years as Web-based television watching becomes the norm.

TV on the Internet

At this point, most of us have gone to Hulu to find last night’s episode of The Office, or headed to the Web site of a major television network like and searched through the neatly organized segments of newscasts, morning talk shows and other programming that you’d find on your cable television screen. Let’s refer to this as ‘TV on the Internet.’ This model has real monetization possibilities, as Hulu has demonstrated most prominently. From an advertising standpoint, though, the current ‘TV on the Internet’ model still leaves many of online video’s more dynamic advertising opportunities on the table.

TV for the Internet

‘TV for the Internet’ differs from ‘TV on the Internet’ in its ability to reach and engage niche communities of viewers. TV shows made for the Web are often created especially for mass niche audiences. Momversation, featuring mom-bloggers discussing topics of interest to other moms, is a great example of how Web TV can reach a specific group of targeted viewers. Shows with high quality, niche content create loyal, passionate communities that identify deeply with the content – and because the psyche of the audience members is entrenched in the subject matter, the opportunities for brand engagement become genuinely interesting. My company, Next New Networks, has an independent music network $99 Music Videos (embedded below) — a destination for a ragingly passionate community of music lovers; this type of highly targeted viewership offers new opportunities for advertisers. Verizon FiOS saw a powerful opportunity in $99 Music Videos, signing on for an integrated advertising campaign as the exclusive sponsor of the network, integrating their branding into the series through “fast-clips,” which are swift, 15-second vignettes that presented Verizon FiOS in the context of speed, a key element of the company’s branding.

Warner Brothers reached a huge range of super-engaged audiences by signing up for a Friday the 13th ad campaign with our independent film network, Indy Mogul. As part of the campaign, Indy Mogul introduced “Jason Week,” during which each of the network’s shows showcased Jason-related programming, such as Backyard FX’s episode demonstrating how to create an “axe in the back” effect. And advertisers don’t have to stick with just one niche – in addition to a direct connection with Indy Mogul’s film loving audience, Warner Brothers rounded out the campaign with a media buy across all of our networks.

Additionally, because of shorter production cycles, producers that develop programming especially for the Web can create new content that references zeitgeist subjects while they’re hot and still very much on the public’s radar. This plays a big part in ‘TV for the Internet’ creators’ ability to develop and publish content that can integrate brands in ways that are up-to-the-minute and relevant to its audience. Ashton Kutcher’s BlahGirls is a good example of how the Web TV model can quickly react to news. The interactive, animated Web series offers a funny take on the latest celebrity news and pop culture, capturing the zeitgeist and engaging its audience. Coming from traditional media, Kutcher’s interest in Web-only programming is a tell-tale sign of the unique benefits of the medium – the Web’s flexibility is a huge boon to advertisers, and the nimble quality of BlahGirls has allowed the series to integrate a range of sponsors.

Internet branding evolution

Branding is evolving on the Internet. Sites like Hulu and that use traditional ‘one-way’ advertising models just don’t capture the interactive aspects of online branding. To put it another way, using banner ads, video pre-rolls and commercial breaks on a Web video site is really just the very beginning. Advertising on the Web is a two-way dialogue. Companies are now beginning to share ownership of their brand with the communities that are helping their brand evolve. And there’s a real opportunity here for brands to learn from their audiences – we give shout-outs to our fans during our shows, and our fans shout right back through comments, contributed video and other interaction. This shared branding relationship necessitates a more interactive advertising medium than the ads used on television or even Web 1.0. To build up its advocates online, brands are now helping build and sustain entire digital communities through sponsorship as well as hands-on integration with online content.

Who wins?

Everybody, hopefully. The point here is that TV for the Internet’s niche audiences and integrated, interactive advertising approach are likely to become increasingly more common in the entertainment world.

Developing a loyal fanbase in today’s fractured, hyper-syndicated media industry is no easy task and some of TV for the Internet’s tactics have shown to be really effective in building loyal audiences and providing targeted advertising opportunities.

Web video is one of the few advertising mediums growing this year, with experts such as eMarketer and Magna predicting anywhere from 30% to 45% growth. There is room for both TV on the Internet and TV for the Internet to succeed. As consumers become more accustomed to video pre-roll and banner ads the same way they learned to fast forward through commercials on their Tivo, the need to develop more creative online video advertising formats is going to increase in a big way. The innovation going on in TV for the Internet advertising will clearly play a role in this shift to more engaging, targeted advertising in online video.

Lance Podell is the chief executive of Next New Networks.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.