It seems everyone in the television business is trying to figure out how to marry TV and the Web. For many TV executives, convergence is much more than a buzzword; it’s the brass ring.
But NBC-owned WNBC-TV in New York has found that it’s not so hard to achieve after all.
The network’s flagship local station recently struck a partnership with online video site LX.com and last month began airing a weekly show called “LX.com: 1st Look New York” that draws heavily from LX’s Web videos. LX.com produces short videos online about goings-on in New York.
The show has been on the air for only a few weeks and is scheduled in a late-morning slot that doesn’t draw powerhouse numbers. Nevertheless, the addition of the show to the lineup suggests that meshing TV and the Internet might be simpler than previously thought — and might be best if local in nature. Such a hybrid show can also position a TV station to pursue untapped Web dollars.
That’s because the show covers lifestyle content, highlighting new restaurants, spas, shopping, bakeries and nightclubs. “It’s all the fun stuff in New York,” said Morgan Hertzan, executive producer for LX.com.
That fun stuff also represents fresh potential for ad dollars, said Gordon Borrell, president of local media research firm Borrell Associates. “This gives an opportunity to tap into revenue that stations don’t normally have, like restaurants [and] nightclubs,” he said. “They tend to do billboards, magazines, Yellow Pages. But this is one of the last great untapped opportunities at a local level around entertainment.”
Consumers increasingly rely on the Internet for this type of information. Also, because most of the “1st Look” content originates from LX’s existing Web programming, the show has a certain sense of “Web coolness” or “sexiness” that local TV stations aren’t usually known for on their own. That cachet could lure younger viewers.
“A big station with the ability to do promotion can do a terrific job creating an entertainment brand,” Mr. Borrell said.
WNBC isn’t alone in pursuing Web/TV synergies. In the fall, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution will launch in syndication “TMZ,” a strip based on the popular gossip and celebrity Web site TMZ.com.
That show likely will draw heavily from the Web site that spawned it, with video segments, breaking celebrity news and regular features on entertainment topics. Stations carrying the show can access a “TMZ-branded module” for their Web sites that lets them integrate around-the-clock TMZ feeds into their own sites.
The WNBC-LX partnership began in February when WNBC started airing “1st Look” as a half-hour show on its digital channel, WNBC DTV 4.4, said David Hyman, VP of programming and creative services at WNBC.
“We were doing localized Web content, and clearly these [WNBC] guys have tremendous reach and the marketing and sales ability that a small Web company doesn’t have, but we have videos on lifestyle and fun stuff,” said LX’s Mr. Hertzan.
Mr. Hyman said he takes a lot of pitches on new shows, but he was impressed that Mr. Hertzan does not possess a solely digital resume. In fact, he cut his teeth as an MTV producer. In addition, the LX video is shot at broadcast quality and does not bear the hallmarks of most Web video, which has become synonymous with shaky camera work and poor production values.
That quality was critical to the pairing, but Mr. Hyman also liked how the subject matter of the Web video translated easily to TV.
“This Web content is very lively and useful. We aren’t trying to take Web content and morph it into TV,” he said. “We’re not taking it out of the Web and remounting it for TV. It works because it’s produced at a high quality with strong storytelling fashion.”
Together, LX and WNBC tweaked the content so that about 70 percent of the program is lifted from existing Web videos, with the other 30 percent fresh material shot for TV. That’s because the videos needed context, set-up and explanation on TV.
The show ran on the digital channel for two months before WNBC decided to bump it up to an 11:30 a.m. time slot on Mondays on the mothership last month.
Mr. Hyman said it’s too early to gauge the success of the new show on-air, especially because morning ratings are traditionally low for most broadcasters. However, he is pleased with anecdotal feedback from viewers. “It’s a passport to the good life whether or not you are someone who is actively pursuing this on a daily basis or a tourist,” he said.
The addition of “1st Look” to WNBC’s stable of programming also falls in line with NBC Universal’s broader strategy. “It’s certainly no secret that every major broadcaster and TV station sees the importance of digital initiatives and that this is the future,” Mr. Hyman said.
LX and WNBC extended their relationship to include producing videos and half-hour specials for the Tribeca Film Festival, which ended last week; LX and WNBC were both media partners with the festival. Those videos aired online, on-air and on the digital channel with Cadillac ads across all those venues.
Mr. Hyman said he’s also in talks with Mr. Hertzan about developing additional projects to launch in the next month. “We want good quality content to deploy across all platforms, from broadcast to the Web to digital and around and around,” Mr. Hyman said.
Expect other local stations to mine opportunities in travel, entertainment and lifestyle content, Mr. Borrell said. Hearst-Argyle, for instance, is currently building out the entertainment content for its local station sites to include professional and amateur local-interest lifestyle videos.
“What they have learned is people are indeed coming to the Internet looking for information on things to do around town,” Mr. Borrell said.