Appointment Viewing Lives Online

Jul 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Appointment viewing is alive and well on the Web, of all places.
The anytime availability online of both television shows and independently produced Internet-only programs has not eradicated appointment viewing as one might expect.
While on-demand viewing has stretched out the viewing window, consumers still are making the appointment to watch shows—they are just watching on their time, and doing so shortly after a show debuts online.
A recent report from online video measurement and distribution firm TubeMogul found that about 50% of all views for online videos occur in the first two weeks of a video’s life. The data takes into account videos from broadcast networks like PBS, online shows from micro-networks such as For Your Imagination and Next New Networks and content providers like National Lampoon and WWE, but excludes videos of little Jimmy’s birthday party.
Broadcast networks corroborated these findings separately. CBS, ABC and NBC said viewership spikes online in the first few days after the release of an episode on the Web. ABC said the majority of viewers of its full episodes on ABC.com watch within 24 hours of the episode becoming available. NBC said viewership spikes in the first two to three days, then tapers off until the next episode.
These findings are the latest evidence that Web video does, to some degree, mirror traditional entertainment mediums. Much of a movie’s success, for instance, is determined by a strong opening weekend. Likewise, TV viewers usually watch a show live or within a few days of airing.
Now, the viewers of the 10 billion online videos watched each month are adopting similar patterns: They’re watching early.
“This also implies to some extent that there are already established audiences that go to these sites on a regular basis and watch what’s new,” said Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul.
That’s why broadcast networks, independent Web studios and newly launching digital networks are refining how they present their programming on the Web as they seek to grab viewership quickly. NBC.com said it is revamping its site for the fall season to make video more accessible and to link more closely to content being promoted on-air.
Web video studio For Your Imagination plans to relaunch the Web sites for two of its shows, “DadLabs” and “Green House TV,” to make past episodes more accessible.
Then there’s Men7, a digital network that launched last week at Men7.tv, which plans to release weekly episodes and to promote short-form versions of those episodes on partner sites such as Veoh, Joost and Hulu.
“If you’re not adding fresh content, your brand is going to fail,” said Darren Chuckry, chief operating officer of Men7.tv, produced by TV studio Bennett Group. The goal with the shorter partner content is to drive viewers back to Men7.tv, especially during that initial window when viewership is strong.
Networks say Web viewership is strong in the early days because of the promotional muscle they put into their shows.
When CBS releases a new episode of a show, it promotes that show heavily either on its CBS.com site or on-air. “It doesn’t surprise me that most views happen in the first two weeks, and I would say it doesn’t mean online content has a short shelf life. It means we merchandise the heck out of it during that time period,” said Anthony Soohoo, senior VP and general manager of entertainment for CBS Interactive.
In some cases, a network may have online rights only for the first 28 days after airing, so that contractual urgency drives the promotional schedule. But when an older episode returns to the site, CBS has been able to drive views through promotion as well.
On-air and online promotion play huge roles in generating online views, but so does consumer awareness of shows, said Vivi Zigler, president of NBC Digital Entertainment.
For instance, when “30 Rock” won the comedy series Emmy last year, online views of the show shot up immediately by three to four times the norm. “People were aware and we saw a huge spike,” Ms. Zigler said.
NBC has other strategies to boost viewership. The site revamp will guide viewers to Web-only videos, such as “Ask Tina,” in which “30 Rock” star Tina Fey answers viewers’ questions. “We make those go live at the same time as the episodes, so we pattern,” Ms. Zigler said.
For Your Imagination has seen the same bumps in viewership when it releases new episodes of shows. About 90% of views of For Your Imagination’s comedy show “Break a Leg” occur in the first week, said Paul Kontonis, CEO of FYI.
Shows like “DadLabs” and “Green House TV” are informational and educational, but both still generate about 70% of their views within the first week of an episode’s release. The site relaunches for these shows should make it easier for users to find the older episodes by grouping episodes by topic.
“We are making it easier to find back catalog so people can search on interests,” Mr. Kontonis said. “So if you are a dad with a newborn, or toddler, or school kid, you can find videos for you. Right now, with every visit to the site, people watch three videos at a time. Our goal is to get that number up.”

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