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ABC’s Digital Video Pitch

May 4, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As ABC aims to land more digital advertising dollars, the network plans to unveil new features and more short-form programming for its video player during upfront conversations with advertisers.
ABC said the changes should make the video player, which is carried on ABC.com and by ABC’s syndication partners like AOL Video, more user-friendly. The network declined to provide specifics. The network won an Interactive Emmy for its player in 2006.
The network’s decision to add more functionality to its Web video offerings, timed to the upfront, is the latest sign that the online video business is growing more competitive. To snag their share of the $1.4 billion that should flow into online video this year, TV networks need to make a splash with marketers.
Though digital dollars are still small compared to the $70 billion total TV ad spend, networks are increasingly leaning on their online offerings as on-air ratings dwindle.
“We really look at how to leverage the audience that already exists for these shows and what we are doing to engage them online and bring them back into our shows,” said Alexis Rapo, VP of digital media at ABC.
ABC’s development work with its video player should serve the network well in the upfront, said Mitch Oscar, executive VP at Carat Digital.
“Last year, for the first time, all of the linear networks, broadcast and cable, were able to engage advertisers in purchasing cross-media digital platform extensions in a meaningful way,” Mr. Oscar said. “This year ABC has developed even greater digital strength through its experimentation with its player in previous seasons, generating an enthusiastic online audience following, which should translate into garnering more revenue in this upfront.”
ABC was the first broadcast network to put its shows online two years ago. This season, the network has landed more than 75 advertisers for its full-episode player and has generated more than 200 million episode starts on the player, more than double the amount for the last TV season.
The average visitor spends about 51 minutes with the player once he starts watching videos on the site, ABC said, citing comScore figures.
This year, look for more short-form programming from ABC in response to advertiser demand.
Online video ads usually sell out quickly, so ABC has boosted the amount of video it carries online, said Patrick McGovern, senior VP of sales, strategic planning and digital media for ABC.
On its site, ABC offers about 7,000 individual pieces of video, about double what it carried last year. “Video is increasingly in more and more demand,” he said.
Short-form content includes behind-the-scenes footage, promo clips and videos in which stars of ABC shows interview other ABC stars, such as Eva Longoria Parker chatting with Christina Applegate.
That show, “Starcrossed,” generated more than 2.2 million views for the first three episodes since its March 31 launch.
ABC also offers content like “Dance Studio,” a short series that breaks down the dances in “Dancing With the Stars” and is sponsored by Dr. Scholl’s. That show also is carried on TVguide.com and Hulu.com.
The network recently launched “LOSTscape,” an online interactive environment that includes video clips from the show. Dodge is on board as the sponsor.
More than 100 brands have sponsored short-form programming on the site. The network also offers ad-supported widgets for many of its popular shows.
A range of ad options is important because advertisers are buying both video and other types of online ads. Convergence Consulting recently predicted advertisers will spend $2.3 billion this year on broadcast and cable network Web sites, including banner and online video ads, a 64% increase from last year.
Online video is sold in the upfront as well as the scatter market, Mr. McGovern said.
“We do integrated deals that expand online and on-air and exclusive online deals where advertisers buy a schedule on the upfront,” he said.
This year more advertising agencies are staring their conversations earlier about online video buys, he said.

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