Web TV: Smelling Like A Rose - InformationWeek

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10/19/2008
12:52 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Web TV: Smelling Like A Rose

Don't be alarmed if you can't decide whether midroll is better than preroll (the former happens after you turn 30), or if lower-third overlays are a good thing (better than a layover in Dallas, I'm sure), because -- and I don't want to name names here, but what choice do I have -- nobody's figured out the right way to make money on Web TV.

Don't be alarmed if you can't decide whether midroll is better than preroll (the former happens after you turn 30), or if lower-third overlays are a good thing (better than a layover in Dallas, I'm sure), because -- and I don't want to name names here, but what choice do I have -- nobody's figured out the right way to make money on Web TV.TechwebTV recently attended and filmed the aptly named Contentonomics conference right outside of Hollywood, in the quaint Luxe Hotel, luxuriously located behind the Sunset Boulevard overpass of the 405 Freeway (no, as it turns out, the FAA apparently wouldn't suspend the constant thrum of helicopter flyover for our filming).

One peculiarly interesting set of money-making ideas arose from all of the clutter and head-scratching, and it came from an unexpected old-media play: The Charlie Rose show. In 2005, the Charlie Rose show took some 7,000 tapes of shows it started filming in 1991 and digitized them into online archives. Charlie Rose Web Strategist Matt Rutherford said that putting the content online was merely the beginning.

First, the company realized it could put together what it calls "collections," or thematic cuts of various shows, say around a singular person (Stephen King, Salman Rushdie) or a topic of interest. After all, there's probably loads to choose from over 17 years.

But it's often difficult to find the time to watch an hour-long broadcast, especially online. As Mark Cuban quipped to us in a recent interview: The only reason someone's going to watch TV on a laptop in their bedroom is if they're trying to hook up. Uh, yeah.

So the company began creating daily highlights. After a show runs, online they put up a five or 10-minute highlight reel from the night before.

Creating an hour-long daily show makes it difficult for an old-media guy to think about Web-only content, and slicing up existing content only gets you so far. One way the show decided to scale the operation was to create a candid interview of a guest in the green room before a show and put that up as Web-only content. Another is to create an entire original series, which the company has done, crafting interviews with people under 35.

The show also has experimented with doing an interview with questions entirely from other people, called Peer Review. This led to a rather interesting series of questions for Brad Pitt.

Finally, the show has a firm belief in content syndication. In fact, Rutherford -- who made sure to tell us these were merely his views and not necessarily those of the show -- told the crowd to forget about copyright. Get your content into the hands of new audiences. This will help develop new audiences and create revenue sharing opportunities.

The show is creating several ways to make money, starting with normal advertising and sponsor models. But I found a few things curious. First, their prerolls are 3 to 5 seconds, with a companion ad. That's brutally (and blissfully) short. I hope that works because this will help increase viewership. Rutherford claims the show is getting $100 CPMs for prerolls.

As the show continues its collections, it also can sell a bit more vertically, finding sponsors that might want a more targeted type of content (and, thus, audience, at least in theory). For example, it has had success with its business collection, which it calls MBA. It also sells its daily highlights separately. It syndicates its content on Hulu, which involves a revenue share -- and the good news is, Hulu and Charlie Rose can sell this, with Charlie Rose getting a bigger share if it sells it.

Rutherford says he thinks that mobile has huge potential, sighting figures that depict a world with 2-1/2 billion mobile phones -- more than twice the number of televisions or Internet-connected PCs. Rutherford says there are interesting examples of long-form content being watched in places like Japan and Korea, thanks to the more advanced mobile networks.

Communities are another area of great interest. Rutherford sites NBC's Biggest Loser, which makes far more money on online dieters (which is subscription-based) than it does from the TV show. The Charlie Rose Show is allowing Facebook users to put up widgets that let you put up your favorite Charlie Rose interviews. The show has actually gone so far as to make its archives available to anyone. Users can craft their own clips and collections. One enterprising user (Samuel Beckett) made a Charlie Rose show where the guest was . . . Charlie Rose.

This also could end up saving them the time and effort of editing so many clips, a great potential benefit for a company that is only about 15 employees large. And it helps market Charlie Rose.

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