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R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’ Generates Online Rush for IFC

Sep 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

“Trapped in the Closet,” the hip-hop opera from rapper R. Kelly, generated lots of traffic for IFC’s Web site last month.
The spike in viewership should translate to online ad revenue for IFC, as it attracted viewers to IFC who haven’t watched the network before.
From Aug. 13 to Aug. 23, IFC said, “Trapped in the Closet” drew 4.1 million page views, an increase of 675 percent from the same period a year ago, with 1.2 million daily unique visitors, 2 million video plays and 6 million minutes downloaded.
Single-day page views peaked Aug. 23 at 463,591.
Evan Shapiro, general manager of IFC, said the numbers were so big that they have changed IFC’s Web site forever, and may also indicate a larger change in the world of Web video.
“I think it’s cable television’s first hit online series,” Mr. Shapiro said. In addition to Web traffic, “Trapped in the Closet” generated huge buzz and was written about repeatedly in the New York Times, New York magazine, the Village Voice and Salon.
“‘Trapped’ will be remembered as the time when the television mindset came to the Internet,” he added. “Not just repurposing, but originating.”
While IFC’s Web site doesn’t offer the quantity of streams that YouTube delivers, Mr. Shapiro said, the show puts IFC in a leading position on the Web from a quality standpoint.
To be sure, the Web has seen other original series from unknowns attract millions of viewers, such as “LonelyGirl15” and “Ask a Ninja.” But the success of “Trapped” should help networks like IFC speed up the development process of new series designed for the Web, said Mr. Shapiro.
For IFC, “Trapped” means not just buzz but bucks. While the network has sponsors on cable, it does not run commercials. Last year during the fourth quarter, it began accepting Web advertising and, thanks to “Trapped” and other original Web programming, Web ad revenue will be up 500 times from last year.
“When you increase your Web traffic by 600 or 700 percent, you burn off ad inventory much faster,” Mr. Shapiro said. “It really helps when you have a hit show. This will do for our Web site what any hit show does for a network.”
He said 2007 will mark the third year in a row that IFC had its best year financially. SNL Kagan projects IFC will nearly double its advertising revenue to $12.1 million this year. Cash flow is expected to rise 25 percent to $30.4 million.
Essentially, the sponsor of “Trapped” was Jive Records, which licensed the series to IFC. IFC’s deal rewards the network for “Trapped” DVD sales, so the big online numbers should translate into more money from disc revenues.
Mr. Shapiro also believes “Trapped” will bring new viewers to both the Web site and the channel. “That will have a lasting effect,” he said.
The network should get another bump this week when IFC runs the series on cable as a special with a live Web chat on Friday.
IFC is planning more original Web series. It plans to announce its fall offering shortly, and in the fall will announce a series it is developing that it expects to be as big as “Trapped.”
IFC recently changed its branding from “TV Uncut” to “Always, Uncut” in order to broaden its scope and be “the voice of independent culture” in varied realms.
In that sphere, “Trapped in the Closet” was a huge event.
“It’s ‘High School Musical’ for the rest of us,” Mr. Shapiro declared.

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