Broadband Sites Offering Range of Experiences

Apr 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Just as cable programmers are pursuing different business models for their broadband channels, they’re also opting for different user experiences. Some of the recent launches-HGTVKitchenDesign, Soapnetic and Discovery’s broadband channels-represent that range.

The Soapnetic site launched last week with Verizon and includes several hundred clips, such as behind-the-scenes interviews with actors from all nine daytime soaps, broadband versions of some SoapNet shows and full episodes of “I Wanna Be a Soapstar,” starting in June.

Soapnetic unfolds like an interactive DVD experience, with a clean, bright look and completely video-centric style. That includes visual links to video for each soap and pop-up tabs across the bottom of the screen for categories such as “stars,” “interviews” and “originals.”

The user interface is simple and uncluttered, representing a departure from most broadband channels that are more like utilitarian Web sites with information-centric layouts.

“SoapNet has definitely raised the bar on design and usability among broadband channels,” said Will Richmond, president of broadband research firm Broadband Directions. “Soapnetic is a perfect example of how leveraging the Flash development environment and ability to serve high-quality exclusive video through broadband enables SoapNet to provide a breakthrough experience for its fans.”

The pure video approach of Soapnetic works well because the site is an entertainment experience, covering a programming genre with both feet firmly in fantasy land.

Closing the Loop

The Scripps approach, by contrast, has been to design its ad-supported video sites along a traditional Web model with familiar Web tabs, pull-down menus, search bars, site maps and links to videos, articles and how-to information. That’s also a format familiar to advertisers, and Scripps has been successful in luring them to both HGTVKitchenDesign.com and its latest site, HGTVBathDesign.com, which launched last week in a trial phase.

The more workmanlike approach of the Scripps sites fits the how-to nature of the content. “While they may be entertaining, the primary purpose of the videos is to close the loop with viewers interested in doing specific projects,” said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks.

Discovery’s new broadband sites are more of a cross between a new-style video experience online and a traditional Web site. “We are right at the crossroads and provide entertainment content and information content,” said Don Baer, senior executive VP for strategy and development at Discovery Communications.