Now that MySpace is the most popular online video destination in the United States, the company is turning to old-fashioned television content to continue building its online social network and generate more revenue from it.
MySpace parent Fox Interactive Media plans to announce a deal as early as this week to kick off a strategy that involves adding more TV and professionally produced video to the site over the next three months.
The new initiative is MySpace’s first big push to strike deals on an ongoing basis with TV networks and studios to offer a variety of TV content from various suppliers with a variety of business models.
“Video is one of the most important initiatives for the company and an integral part of the lifestyle of our members,” MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe said.
The deals planned by MySpace and other Fox Interactive Media sites call for those sites to offer TV content on an advertising-supported, download-to-own or download-for-rent basis. MySpace and FIM will look to involve advertisers in this professionally produced material and TV content, rather than in the viral videos that populate the site.
Advertisers are more comfortable associating themselves with traditional video content rather than most user-generated material.
Still, “You will start seeing more innovative ad executions [such as] sponsorships that are unique to certain advertisers,” said Mickie Rosen, senior VP and general manager of entertainment for Fox Interactive Media.
The new FIM video initiative will bring more promotional content, along the lines of the seven-minute sneak peek of the season premiere of “The Simpsons” that ran last month on MySpace and other FIM sites, as well as more full episodes of TV shows, Ms. Rosen said.
In addition to MySpace, FIM sites include Foxsports.com, gaming sites IGN.com and Direct2drive.com, and entertainment sites Fox.com, Rottentomatoes.com and Americanidol.com.
“The biggest priority is continuing to build MySpace into a next-generation social networking platform, and part of that includes studio-based, professionally produced content,” Ms. Rosen said.
FIM’s planned new deals expand vastly upon those announced in May and August.
In May, MySpace offered entire episodes of Fox’s “24.” In August, Fox Interactive Media said it would offer download-to-own versions of Fox TV shows starting this month.
MySpace has offered content from other networks before, such as a full-length episode of NBC’s U.S. version of “The Office” prior to its premiere, as well as a 10-minute sneak peek of Bravo’s first episode of “Project Runway” late last year.
But MySpace plans to open up its TV selections beyond Fox properties on a regular basis. The download-to-own business also will expand to include other companies’ shows.
“We think the winning strategy is to cut across types of content,” Ms. Rosen said.
FIM is already in talks with other networks and studios for TV content; some deals are close to being finalized, she said.
While Fox.com is also an important online destination for Fox shows, the broadcast network has subscribed to the strategy that most other networks employ to offer their video content on both their own sites, on sister properties and on portals to reach the widest audience possible.
MySpace has skyrocketed in recent months as a video destination, for both homegrown videos and TV content.
MySpace now commands 4.6 percent of all Internet traffic, up from 2 percent just a year ago, according to Internet tracking firm Hitwise. In July the site served up nearly 1.5 billion video streams, representing 20 percent of all videos viewed on the Internet that month, audience measurement service comScore Media Metrix reported last week.
In July MySpace attracted 37.4 million unique visitors who watched video, placing it ahead of YouTube’s 30.5 million video watchers, among individual site destinations that stream video, comScore said. Last week’s findings marked the first time comScore has reported on videos viewed online. The typical MySpace video viewer watched 39 streams in July.
MySpace, purchased for $580 million by News. Corp. in 2005, launched its video offering at the start of 2006 with a blend of user-generated content and professional material such as its “Artist on Artist” interview series.
“MySpace is clearly laying the groundwork to be a distribution player for all types of content,” said Brahm Eiley, analyst with Convergence Consulting. However, those grand plans will take time to materialize, he cautioned. “We would not expect MySpace to change the world this year or next. Online plays are really just at the embryonic stage.”
As MySpace broadens its purview to include more TV content, the site will have to strike a delicate balance to ensure that MySpace users who want only to engage in the social networking can do that while others can hop over to the video section to watch viral video, music videos, originals or TV content.
“It’s about making available and letting users explore, discover, talk about and share,” Ms. Rosen said. “This is just the beginning … we can’t let a day go by without us being really aggressive, innovative and risk-taking to a large degree.”