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Environment Hot Issue for Networks

May 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Green is the new black.

Following the Oscar win for Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and last month’s rash of mainstream magazine and newspaper coverage of issues affecting the planet, environmentally conscious programming has become a must-have genre both online and on-air.

Television networks are eager to tap into the green consumer segment, which boasts more than $230 billion in spending power, according to a study from the National Marketing Institute. As green living percolates into the consumer consciousness, media companies such as Scripps and Discovery are anteing up with like-minded on-air, broadband and mobile TV shows.

Meanwhile, the incumbent in the genre-scrappy digital programmer Lime-in the coming weeks plans to announce a development slate for the third quarter that includes six new Web series, more than doubling its number of original online shows. In addition, Lime landed its first advertiser, Microsoft, for a new online ad network that sells ads across Lime.com and other eco-friendly sites. The privately held Lime has nearly tripled its number of advertisers and nearly quadrupled its ad revenues so far this quarter compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

“[Networks] are reacting now to what is going on in society, and there is a big push now about what’s going on in the environment,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media. He expects advertisers to flock to green programming because the consumers are usually younger, more engaged and more likely to respond to the ads that can “blend” into the programming in such an environment.

New advertisers to Lime over the past year are both endemic and broad; they include Dryer’s Edy’s Yogurt Blends, Frito Lay’s Flat Earth, Lean Cuisine, GM, Gerber and HSBC. Existing advertisers include Silk Soy Milk, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Garnier, Toyota and Sony Pictures.

But as green living becomes more popular, Lime will need to defend its turf, especially when Discovery comes out swinging next year with a green-centric network of its own.

“Our mission is to be where the new green is,” C.J. Kettler, founder and CEO of Lime, said in an interview in the network’s New York offices last week, where the walls are painted lime green and aromatherapy candles line the partitions of cubicles. “My vision of what Lime is now is we live at the intersection of Web 2.0 and traditional media brands.”

The network, backed by former AOL executive Steve Case, launched in 2005 after buying Wisdom TV and using that network’s 6.5 million linear subscribers as part of its multipronged distribution approach. However, gaining additional carriage proved an uphill battle that wasn’t worth fighting in the bandwidth-constrained universe of today’s cable systems. Lime shut down its linear network earlier this year to focus exclusively on digital distribution through its own Web site, broadband distribution services such as Joost and AOL Video, video-on-demand, mobile television and satellite radio.

Ms. Kettler contends the multivenue strategy will help Lime remain competitive as the genre gets crowded. The green consumer is a “lean-forward” consumer, she said. So Lime’s site links in environmentally focused bloggers and eco-centric Web sites, and also lets users post information on local stores and services around the country that boast green-friendly business practices. “We want to create a destination where people can do everything-to read articles, to be informed by information, watch videos, listen to podcasts, download, find out what’s in their ZIP code and to build a community around the content,” she said.

Lime also may have a leg up in simple ways. Many New York-based networks and media agencies throw out rather than recycling cans and water bottles. Lime, by contrast, has made arrangements with its midtown building to recycle cans, bottles and white paper. Also, the green lifestyle isn’t just about the wallpaper. Ms. Kettler walks to work most days, switching her pumps for flats at the end of the day. The network serves water to guests in glasses, which can be used again, or cardboard cups, which are biodegradable, rather than plastic ones.

That walk-the-walk approach could help the network continue to attract and retain leading green personalities. In its stable, the network already counts author Dr. Andrew Weil, who has written about integrated medicine, environmentalist Josh Dorfman and New York chef Michel Nischan, who’s an advocate for sustainable farming.

Discovery Home

Next year, when Discovery rebrands Discovery Home to focus the 50 million-subscriber network on green lifestyle programming, Lime will face formidable competition. The network will invest $50 million in programming in this so-called “Discovery PlanetGreen” initiative to cover sustainable development, organic lifestyle and healthy living. Online, Discovery will provide tools and how-to tips on how to “green” a home, car or office.

“Discovery PlanetGreen aims to be the No. 1 media destination for this growing consumer segment,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav said when he announced the new programming strategy at April’s upfront.

The Discovery initiative includes digital content, such as the four green-centric series it’s launching on mobile phones this year.

Scripps Networks also sees the ad potential in green programming. The media company has launched online series on green kitchens and baths on HGTV.com, DIYnetwork.com and HGTVPro.com. Some of the tips include water-conserving faucets, efficient hot-water pumps and copper sinks made from recycled electrical wires and pipes.

Also, DIY this month plans to air “Green Me Up,” a one-hour special on energy-saving tips, and next month HGTV will debut a one-hour special on environmentally friendly homes, “Red Hot and Green.”

In response, Lime will add more content. Last year, Lime developed six Web series, but plans to have added 10 series by the end of the third quarter. That includes the animated series “Ms. Rabble,” voiced by Victoria Jackson, that launched last week.

Lime.com reaches about 1 million to 1.5 million monthly unique viewers, triple the number from a year ago, according to ComScore data provided by Lime. To snag ad dollars before the field is packed, Lime launched the Lime Ad Network last month; it loops like-minded Web sites into an online ad network, nearly doubling Lime’s online reach.

“Lime is really on pace to be the destination for green living, not just on the Web, but on mobile and radio and podcasting,” Ms. Kettler said. “The new world is divided into lifestyle verticals. … We never built the network to be one thing or another. We built it to be a content network that distributes lifestyle programming.”

How Green Living Dollars Are Spent

The $230 billion green/healthy living sector spends money in the following categories:

Ecological lifestyles: $81 billion

Sustainable economy: $75 billion

Alternative healthcare: $31 billion

Healthy living: $28 billion

Personal development: $11 billion

Source: National Marketing Institute

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