Cable Networks Put More Content Online

IFC and others debuting original programs on their Websites
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IFC is making a bet that people are hungry for online video with their lunch. The network’s two-month-old Lunchbox is a daily Web show of independent-culture news and entertainment that premieres new episodes each day at noon. The two- to five-minute programs are hosted by different IFC Web personalities each day, and themed around topics like music and films that are near and dear to IFC’s audience base.

The show is part of an aggressive move by IFC to program its entire Website with original shows, rather than clips or episodes of those on its network. Stocking Websites with programs, repurposed and new, was a hot topic at the NCTA convention in New Orleans last week.

For IFC.com, the strategy began last year with the popular Trapped in the Closet and is continuing this summer with the site slated to premiere a new program each month.

IFC.com plans to add to its site soon with new series including Good Morning Internet, a morning talk show parody, and Get Hit, a look at how to make it big as a Web star.

“We think original programming on the Web is the way to go, rather than repurposing reruns from our network,” says Evan Shapiro, executive VP/general manager at IFC. “For Lunchbox, the idea is that these are your cool friends who know a lot about very specific subjects.”

Since debuting in March, Lunchbox has drawn about 1,000-2,000 page views a day—not the hugest number, Shapiro admits, but double what it drew at launch. Now, it’s popular enough to rank among IFC.com’s most-viewed shows, and it’s attracted Toyota as a sponsor.

The site itself draws about 550,000-600,000 unique hits a month, according to Omniture, and has seen a spike this month for its “Cannes Cam,” daily footage from the film festival. Revenue for IFC.com has increased to more than $1 million a year. That might not seem like much, but it’s a 500% increase from the year before, Shapiro says.

Increasing their output of content on the Web was a hot topic among programmers at the NCTA show. As advertisers continue to demand the greater accountability and demographic targeting that the Internet offers, networks have adapted differing strategies in dispatching content online—posting “extras” or full-length episodes from their old and current TV series, creating new shows or launching entirely new Websites.

CBS last week said it added a slew of old TV series, including The Love Boat and Twin Peaks, to its portfolio of Websites and partners, including Bebo and Last.fm. The shows are a way for CBS to further monetize its CBS Audience Network.

Also using a major partner to push its shows to consumers, Viacom said at NCTA that it had broadened its partnership with Comcast’s Fancast Website, providing the site with new full-length episodes of Comedy Central’s South Park, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as well as exclusive MTV Networks and BET Networks content. The content represents 50 hours of full-length episodes and 150 short-form clips each month on the entertainment portal, which features episodes and clips from 100 providers, including CBS, NBC and Fox.

“Partnerships like this are so important to us,” says MTV Networks Chairman/CEO Judy McGrath. “It’s not enough these days to keep your video confined to your own destination sites. You’ve got to reach out to consumers wherever they are online, and allow them to take your content with them wherever they’re going.”

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