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VOD Gets Viral Campaign Bug

Jun 24, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Video-on-demand programming by design often caters to specific niches. Viral marketing campaigns, by their nature, target specific niches.

So it’s no surprise that the two are getting cozy.

A pair of VOD programmers have begun using viral marketing campaigns to reach new consumers. Rainbow Media’s Lifeskool generated strong results from its first campaign and is about to embark on the next one.

If the VOD network sees continued success, viral marketing may spread to other VOD programmers as an efficient and effective way to draw new consumers.

In July, Lifeskool kicks off a viral campaign for its video game series “Gamer Dojo,” inviting users to create their own “machinima” videos. Machinima is a style of filmmaking using video games as a backdrop.

World Wrestling Entertainment also is tapping into viral marketing to promote its subscription VOD network and to encourage people to purchase WWE’s SummerSlam pay-per-view on Aug. 26.

The Lifeskool machinima contest will launch in partnership with Web site machinima.com and will award the winner a two-week paid internship in New York with machinima artist Chris Burke. The contest runs for three months.

“This is suited to viral marketing because Lifeskool appeals to a group of people and that’s what viral marketing is about,” said Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager of Lifeskool.

“It all goes to brand awareness. When people know about a brand and understand what it is, that is the first step in getting people to watch. … Because our programs target discrete communities, this is a real opportunity to efficiently market our brand and we plan to do more of it.”

Lifeskool’s first attempt at viral marketing late last year generated massive publicity. Lifeskool used viral marketing to drive buzz for its pet-centric show “The Pet Shop.” The network’s Web site solicited viewer videos of pet birds performing tricks. The winning bird, a parakeet named A.J., had talent to spare. He can putt a golf ball, shoot a basketball and play dead. The video of his tricks was distributed virally on video-sharing sites, including YouTube, where it appeared as a featured video.

The campaign drove up Web traffic for Lifeskool, especially when the videos appeared on YouTube, Mr. Ronayne said.

WWE debuted a viral video promotion in May called “Are You WWE’s Biggest Fan?” to drive purchases for its SVOD service, dubbed WWE 24/7. The service is carried by nine of the top 10 cable operators, with Time Warner the holdout.

As a premium service—viewers pay $7 to $8 a month for it—WWE must convince consumers to sign up for the service. The campaign culminates in late August and WWE 24/7 will give away the month of September free to new customers.

The contest, running through July 31, lets users submit 60-second home videos on Comcast’s user-generated video site, Ziddio.com. Internet users can vote for their favorites.

WWE will fly 15 finalists, 10 chosen by Ziddio users and five by WWE judges, to New York in late August to participate in WWE’s SummerSlam Weekend. Among the events will be a red-carpet gala in which judges will determine the contest’s grand prize winner, who receives $25,000.

The VOD service is the only place where viewers will be able to see the finalists’ videos from the contest. That’s one of the hooks WWE is using to entice fans to sign up for its VOD network.

“We need a big promotion to get those fans on the fence to upgrade, so we are trying to give them something that is very unique,” said Lisa Richards, director of affiliate marketing for WWE.

By June 14, the network had received 312 submissions, which had been viewed more than 150,000 times. Ms. Richards said she expects about 1,000 submissions. “They are sending videos to their friends and the videos mention WWE 24/7. … If you are successful and catch the wave, it takes off on its own, because your customers sell this on their own,” she said.

WWE is promoting the campaign through e-blasts, viral games, cross-channel spots and its Web site. Cable operators Time Warner, Cox and Comcast, plus satellite providers EchoStar and DirecTV, are promoting the Ziddio contest for the SummerSlam aspects.

Viral campaigns fit strategically with VOD, Ms. Richards said. “People need these types of tactics to drive them to the on-demand platform, to get them hooked, to make on-demand a part of their life experience. This is going to be critical to the success of VOD.”

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