The broadband content provider Crackle is notching a win with its new comedy/interview series "The Jace Hall Show." I received a press release that it generated 500K visitors in the first two days following its launch on June 5th and a million to date. I'm always intrigued with what kinds of original broadband programs are working - and why - so I grabbed some time yesterday with Mary Ray, Crackle's VP of Marketing to learn what's behind Jace's success.
For those of you like me who are not gamers, Jason "Jace" Hall is probably unfamiliar. But Mary explained that if you're in the gaming community he's a fairly well-know producer who has a wide network of relationships in the industry. His show brings you into the world of his relationships, making you feel more connected to gamers' movers and shakers. And since he has his finger on the pulse of what the young male gamer audience is looking for, that gives him a real edge. Plus Mary believes that Hollywood still hasn't paid much attention to this market, despite gaming's huge following.
In the program's first episode Jace provided a sneak peek at a Duke Nukem Forever game that has reputedly been in development for 12 years. Gaining this type of access is practically like having exclusive content. Mary said that Crackle didn't do any advance paid marketing for the show; rather the audience was driven purely by word-of-mouth and buzz-building. I joked with Mary - spend no money but gain a big audience - the show sounds like a marketer's dream!
I asked Mary what she thinks the most important takeaway from Jace's early success is. Her feeling was that tapping into what the audience is hungry for is the key. While I agree, I'd go a step further. I think that trying to find talent that already has a following - whether in gaming, TV or some other medium - is a genuine way to improve a program's odds of success. I'm not necessarily talking about A-list talent per se, but rather talent that is at least known within some kind of niche (e.g. finance, comedy, woodworking, etc). That's not say "don't go with unknown talent looking to break out," but I do think it's important to recognize that doing so carries more risk.
The whole area of original broadband content is surging with players like Crackle, Next New Networks, 60Frames, ManiaTV, Break, Heavy, MyDamnChannel, FunnyorDie and lots of others pioneering the model. It's going to be very interesting to learn more about what works and why.
What do you think works in original broadband video? Share your comments now!
(Note: This is the second in a series of posts with companies participating in the 2008 Media Summit, a premier industry event which will be held next week in NYC. VideoNuze has partnered with Digital Hollywood, the Media Summit's organizer, to provide select analysis and news coverage.)
Heavy Corporation, which operates Heavy.com, one of the most popular independent broadband video destinations for 18-34 males, is poised to make a push into the ad platform/network business through its Husky Media unit. I spoke to Eric Hadley, Heavy's chief marketing officer yesterday who filled me in on their plans.
The Husky platform is currently used today by Heavy.com. If you go to the site, you'll see how it operates, showing just one ad with the video selected. As Eric explains, the video is wrapped in the advertiser's skin, so upon starting the video player exposes a big interstitial ad for 2 1/2 second that sort of feels like "barn doors" before opening to the video itself. Then when the video plays, display ads surround the content. Additional related content is queued up and automatically starts playing subsequently. This approach has resulted in a 270% lift in videos viewed as compared with the pre-queuing implementation. This of course means more video usage and more advertising exposure.
Eric said that advertiser enthusiasm for the Husky presentation has prompted Heavy to now offer it to other publishers who target demos other than Heavy.com's 18-34 males. It's still early days, but Eric said that in the next few weeks several major publishers will be launching Husky implementations, as will small-to-medium sized sites. This will form the beginnings of an ad network Heavy can assemble and offer to advertisers. By evolving Husky's focus from internal-only use to external use as well, Heavy will be competing with broadband ad players such as Tremor, Broadband Enterprises and others. The Husky move shows how dynamic the broadband video ad space is, with multiple kinds of formats and implementations being tested and used by content providers seeking to maximize monetization.
Meanwhile Heavy is continuing to build out its Heavy.com destination site, which currently receives 17M+ visitors/mo. Key upcoming focuses are music/urban, cars and racing, sports and travel categories. These are all the purview of the Heavy's recently added head of programming, Jimmy Jellinek, former editor at Maxim. Content sourcing is varied, with Heavy.com producing some of its own, producing some for its advertisers and also some it obtaining some from others, such as Transworld. In the U.S. today, Heavy does not syndicate its programming to others sites, which is a somewhat contrarian position vs. other content providers who are syndicating widely.
Looking ahead to the Media Summit, Eric plans to explain more about the upcoming Husky push and how content providers and advertisers can benefit from it. He also sees the Media Summit as an ideal forum to learn from others what's making a difference in the industry and what's hot.