As YouTube stiffens competition in the online video business, MySpace is angling to strike deeper relationships with broadcast and cable networks to become a programming partner with them in the reality genre.
The social-networking site that attracts 80 million unique visitors each month is talking to TV networks about creating complementary programming to reality shows that would run on MySpace in advance of a show’s on-air launch.
The first project would likely launch in the first half of this year.
“It’s adding a social-networking platform to reality- and event-based programming,” Shawn Gold, senior VP of marketing and content with MySpace, said in an interview with TelevisionWeek at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.
The new effort has the potential to build buzz for both a show and for advertisers, Mr. Gold said.
For MySpace, the benefits are at least two-fold. The cachet of featuring exclusive programming related to shows yet to premiere on TV can drive additional viewers to MySpace. The new programming also creates new advertising revenue opportunities.
Mr. Gold would not disclose the networks with which MySpace expects to link.
“We are talking about starting TV shows before they air so the beginning of the show is online,” Mr. Gold said. “This is more for reality, where the backstory is online. So we would do recruiting reality contestants online and advertisers are integrated in several months before it hits.”
Bravo, which was one of the first networks to market its shows on MySpace two years ago and has a strong stable of reality hits, would be a logical choice for this type of partnership.
Under this new programming approach, advertisers would be integrated into the program and not just gain exposure through 30-second spots, Mr. Gold said. Some deals will be announced in the next few months.
MySpace is extending its reach into TV content because it needs to keep pace with YouTube, one of its biggest competitors. YouTube, since Google bought it, has cemented pacts with networks such as CBS and advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Verizon.
This new initiative builds on MySpace’s push late last year to offer more TV content. The site partnered with TBS in October to introduce an online comedy competition that let amateur comedians submit videos of their work via MySpace. In November Fox debuted the season premiere of “The O.C.” on MySpace.com for a week prior to its on-air debut. Additional TV content online can yield ad revenue for MySpace, since the networks usually strike the programming partnerships in conjunction with a larger ad buy in which the marketer is turning to MySpace for its reach with Internet users. In some cases, MySpace brings in additional sponsors.
In August, Comscore reported that the Fox Interactive sites, which include MySpace, were the leading Web destination for online video, serving 1.4 billion streams that month. Most of those streams originated from MySpace.