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Using Video to Enliven Web Search

Apr 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

TV Guide’s online executives are in talks with the major broadcast networks to embed full episodes of television shows on the TVGuide.com Web site in an effort to increase the reach and distribution of TV programming online.
In addition to search results and listings for nearly all network shows online or on iTunes, TV Guide embeds episodes from CBS shows in its site and wants to embed episodes from all the broadcast networks, said Paul Greenberg, senior VP and general manager of TV Guide Online.
TV Guide’s efforts to direct users to network content and to embed such programming underscore how important broadcast content is to the Web video economy.
Advertisers are expected to spend $1.4 billion on online video advertising this year, up from $775 million last year, according to eMarketer. A large chunk of that money will go to content from broadcast and cable networks.
A number of players are vying to serve as the portal for online video content. TV Guide.com goes up against sites like OVGuide.com, WeShow.com and PrimetimeRewind.TV. They contend the opportunity to help Internet viewers navigate the 10 billion videos viewed monthly on the Web is a large one.
However, critics point out that consumers are mostly likely to find TV shows online via word of mouth, recommendations and search engines, rather than through guides.
Online video guides are different from search engines. Most guides do include search functionality, but they primarily serve as guides to video on the Web.
TV Guide.com is delivering more than 6 million unique visitors each month, up from less than 3 million in September 2006, according to Nielsen Online numbers provided by TV Guide. Internal figures put the site at 11 million unique visitors per month, up from 5 million in September 2006, Mr. Greenberg said.
TV Guide searches through at least 300,000 videos on the Web on an hourly basis, drawing from 65 professional sites including Amazon, iTunes and broadcast and cable network sites. Studies have proven that users prefer to watch professionally produced videos online.
Viewers can search for any network show on TVGuide.com and link through to those full episodes, but they can watch CBS shows directly on the TV Guide site. “We have a deal with CBS and we are in the process of working out deals with other networks,” Mr. Greenberg said.
TVGuide.com also peppers video results throughout every search conducted on its site. “This gives us a completely immersive experience so anywhere within the site you can find video,” Mr. Greenberg said.
TVGuide.com is ad-supported and has sold quarter-long sponsorships for the online video guide to advertisers including Verizon and Turner.
Primetime Potential
PrimetimeRewind.TV is betting on network television content, too. The site launched in March and provides a 3-D cube with images of different types of network TV shows on the faces of the cube. Using a mouse or the arrow buttons on a keyboard, users can select TV shows to watch and are directed to a network site.
The cube only provides links for prime-time network shows since those are the most watched by Internet video viewers, said Amit Shafrir, co-founder of PrimetimeRewind. “We push you through to the experience the network wants you to have. We simply guide you to the site,” he said.
PrimetimeRewind eventually hopes to strike deals with networks to syndicate their content on its site, rather then simply drive traffic to their sites.
OVGuide’s Searching
Then there’s OVGuide.com, which launched in 2006 and operates as a search engine and guide for online video. The site processes about 400,000 search queries that direct users to sites such as Hulu.com, YouTube, ABC.com and others. The guide portion of the site includes content grouped by category as well as editorial listings for top movie, TV show and viral video sites.
“We show users the myriad of online video sites that are doing the best job, and we are also an editorial voice by weeding out sites,” said Chad Cooper, the manager for marketing and editorial content at OVGuide.com.
The site also lists the top searches occurring on its site at any given moment, providing an interesting snapshot of the behavior of other searchers. The site attracts about 5.5 million unique visitors per month, according to its internal numbers. According to Nielsen Online, however, the site reaches about 1 million unique visitors per month. OVGuide has just recently begun talking to advertisers about running targeted ads on its site and hopes to close deals within the next 30 days.
But the challenge these sites face is in changing the habits of consumers.
“Most online video is spread through e-mail or people finding the video serendipitously by going to YouTube and seeing what’s on the front page,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of research at online measurement firm Hitwise.
Consumers also learn about hot Web videos the same way they find out about TV shows or movies, said Josh Cohen, co-founder of online video review site Tilzy.TV.
“We learn about traditional shows through word of mouth and friends and advertising, or some sort of authority or some review. I don’t go searching for movies I might want to see,” he said.
That’s why some online video guides are trying to push content beyond their own site. TV Guide recently began offering online video guide widgets that let users place a smaller form of the guide on their sites. The widget is even customizable, so a Justin Timberlake fan site, for instance, could provide a TV Guide online video guide widget tailored to finding videos of the pop star.

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