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TV’s Web Sites Hunker Down

Nov 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Television networks’ online video destinations are girding for the economic slowdown by focusing on advertising metrics and proven programming, executives at sites including Hulu.com and ABC.com said at the NewTeeVee conference in San Francisco today.
Advertiser interest in ABC.com remains strong in the fourth quarter, but the site will devote its resources to revenue and traffic generators and less on original online content in the months ahead, said Alexis Rapo, ABC.com’s VP of digital media during an exclusive interview with TelevisionWeek.
“We are focusing on products core to us, like short-form content and our top shows in terms of traffic and revenue,” she said. That includes the online presence for shows like “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Other stuff that was nice to do we will put it to the side,” she said.
High ad recall and an uncluttered ad environment can help Hulu weather a recession, said Hulu CEO Jason Kilar during a keynote.
When asked how Hulu plans to manage the lean months in light of broader advertising pullbacks across the television industry, Mr. Kilar said, “We want to do more of what we are already doing. We have high recall rates and much stronger lift in terms of intent to purchase,” he said. “We are very persnickety about the advertising load you see on Hulu and that puts more focus on the brand, so at the end of the session the brand and the advertising resonates much more.”
Mr. Kilar declined to disclose revenue projections for the site but pointed out that Hulu delivers about 145 million video streams each month to 12 million unique visitors. Hulu content has been embedded 1.5 million times on more than 60,000 Web sites. “There is a lot of headroom to continue to grow even in the context of the financial situation the world is in right now,” he said.
Over at ABC.com, don’t expect the site to launch original online series unless a sponsor is interested in the show, Ms. Rapo said.
“I am bullish around derivatives for our shows. In an up market it’s challenging to launch a new product and in a down market it’s that much more challenging. To the extent we can build a fan base around existing shows, that’s a stronger market,” she said.
Despite the belt-tightening, some venture capitalists still have money to dole out, said Maha Ibrahim, a general partner with Canaan Partners, who told TelevisionWeek that her company raised $650 million for its fund in January 2008. “You have to look at the trends and the trends for digital media and television are moving online,” she said.
Venture capitalists will be scrutinizing business plans even more closely in the months ahead. “Eyeballs are fine but how do you monetize? With banner ads, video ads? Are there multiple streams of revenue generation?” she asked.
(Editor: Baumann)

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