TitanTV Moves Beyond Listings

Web syndicator inks new deals to help broadcasters boost local revenue

TitanTV, which provides programming for station Websites around the country, is closing a flurry of deals that it says will get local users to spend more time on the sites—and grow stations' ad revenue.

Headed up by broadcast technology pioneer Jack Perry and Post-Newsweek Stations vet Mark Effron, TitanTV has inked pacts with a range of content providers to add a dash of flash to Titan's Web offerings. Titan also signed up its 20th station partner recently, and promises that major-market deals are in the works.

President/COO Effron says stations' Web fare doesn't accurately reflect their on-air product, and believes Titan can fill that programming gap. “For stations to fully take advantage of the goodwill they've built up with their audience, their Website shouldn't be just news, any more than their stations are not just news,” he says.

A number of Web programming outfits, including WorldNow and Internet Broadcasting, are clamoring to help stations boost online revenue. According to a recent study from Borrell Associates, broadcast TV accounted for 9.5% of local online ad share last year, a far cry from newspapers (26.9%) and pure-play Internet outlets (49.7%).

TitanTV has been a key, if unheralded, part of stations' online business for over a decade, in the form of the programming guides found on more than 1,100 stations' Websites. TitanTV founder/CEO Perry made his fortune coming up with software solutions for broadcasting (he founded Decisionmark); one station veteran calls Perry “a phenomenal idea guy.”

Last spring, TitanTV branched beyond guides, which get around 12 million page views a month, and recast itself as a broadband network. TitanTV.com features three channels: Titan Greens (which has an environmental focus), Titan Showbiz and Titan Laughs. The shows are short and typically humorous. The Daily Greens program delivers environmental tips without coming off like Al Gore at the podium. For example, a segment on biodegradable beer cups at the ballpark featured the perky hostess singing an off-key rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

But Titan has hardly distanced itself from its listings past. The company has tapped New York comic Grace Randolph, whom Effron calls “our own Tracey Ullman,” to offer daily viewing picks, her wisecracking image superimposed over the program guide.

Among Titan's third-party content deals, Lightworks Program Distribution will contribute interviews with Hollywood A-listers, and Popular Arts Entertainment, which produces programming for networks such as A&E, will contribute content as well. Titan is close to finalizing a deal with Bravo to partner with its Television Without Pity (TWP) site, which would see TitanTV license TWP's snarky program reviews.

Some believe the Titan principals' track records are enough to merit a closer look. “What I've always been impressed with is the quality of their technology,” says Magid Media Futures VP Maryann Baldwin. “Everything I've seen them deliver has been very solid.”

Titan's affiliates are in smaller markets, such as WCBI Tupelo, KLAX Alexandria, Va., and WKAG Fort Campbell/Hopkinsville, Ky. It's a revenue share arrangement; stations don't pay anything upfront, and split local ad revenue with Titan (Effron says there will be national advertisers at some point). It's a low-risk model that stations should find attractive, believe some consultants.

WKAG uses TitanTV's video player to stream its newscasts, but hasn't opted to tap Titan's programming yet. General Manager Eddie Owen says the partnership has been a success—particularly in making WKAG's different regional newscasts available for all to see. “There's a real clean interface,” says Owen. “Viewers love having all the choices right there, and a quick load time.”

He says WKAG's Web business, which has been a low priority in the past, should see revenue triple in the first year of its partnership with TitanTV. (Titan says a typical partner station might see a 25% boost in Web revenue, but that it's too early to give a truly accurate prediction.)

Effron will hit the NAB show in the coming weeks in search of more partners. “We're working with stations to tweak the model and make their Websites stickier,” he says, “and make more money on the Web.”