MTVN Digital Chief: More Virtual Worlds


MTV Networks is developing several more virtual worlds with an eye on integrating online avatars into linear TV programming.

That was the word from MTVN Global Digital Media President Mika Salmi today at the eighth annual Goldman Sachs Internet Conference in Las Vegas, NV.
MTVN, which currently has five virtual worlds including one tied to MTV's Laguna Beach program and another to the overall Nickelodeon brand, has said it is looking to develop more online worlds for other shows and music genres, but the idea of integrating characters into TV shows is new.
Salmi talked up MTVN as "truly a multiplatform company" in telling investors about its digital strategy. The goals now, he said, include launching targeted microsites beyond the company's current 230 and linking those sites, as well as integrating TV elements into digital platforms and vice versa.
"It's not about digital versus linear," he said. "We really look at it as one company."
Salmi joined MTVN in November, 2006 after his Atom Entertainment was acquired by the company in August. Viacom’s MTVN has faced criticism from investors for lacking a clear digital strategy and missing out on key youth-targeted online buys like the social networking site MySpace, which was acquired by NewsCorp.
Salmi said MTVN's idea of social media is luring young consumers to a variety of subject-themed microsites, not just one.
"It's not about this one big uber-social network," he said.
The company's Nickelodeon-themed virtual world, Nicktropolis, counts more than 3 million users. More than 7,000 visitors to Virtual Laguna Beach bought in-world cans of Pepsi and 99% of the site's visitors saw the sponsor's brand, he said.
During first quarter, MTVN signed deals for its digital properties with 53 new advertisers, including Doritos, Tropicana and Saab, according to Salmi. He said the company is looking to increase its online spend from existing advertisers through video ads, placement in virtual worlds, and integrations in new videogames, like the forthcoming Rock Band, currently under development by Harmonix Music Systems.
Salmi lauded MTVN for its digital reach and is content distribution model, including licensing deals with various online companies and letting Web users embed clips on their own websites. He did not mention the copyright-infringement lawsuit that Viacom filed against Google's YouTube in March.