Cable Execs See On-Air and Online Blend3/15/1998 7:00 PM Eastern
New York -- Expect to see more cross-fertilization between
on-air and online programming as bandwidth capacity increases, say cable television
executives charged with overseeing their networks' Internet offerings.
Brands are increasingly being viewed as cutting across
various lines of business rather than being differentiated by medium, according to
executives from MTV: Music Television, Lifetime Television, E! Entertainment Television,
Disney Channel, The Weather Channel, NBC Digital Productions and USA Networks at a recent
Jupiter Communications Consumer Online Services conference in New York.
Although the process is clearly in a nascent stage,
executives said they were beginning to blend on-air and online content in certain shows as
well as to cross-promote Web and television programming.
E! Online president Jeremy Verba articulated a common theme
among the cable executives when he described E!'s approach to its' brand -- and
content -- as "platform agnostic."
Verba said it wouldn't be long before E! began
presenting shows that were a 50-50 mixture of on-air and online elements. Michael Carey,
senior vice president of New Media for The Weather Channel, said his network was already
beginning to blend the two, using TV talent on the Web, giving the same audio feed to TV
programs and the Web site and having joint remote coverage of breaking weather stories.
Matt Farber, senior vice president of programming
enterprises for MTV, said interaction between television and online works when there is
either what he called a "bonus" or "blended" experience for the
MTV's daily contests were a good example of a bonus
experience, he said, where online users were contestants on such on-air MTV segments as Take
It to the Matt. Likewise, he continued, the two mediums can be blended via a live TV
show that includes "a virtual studio audience in real time."
USA is also experimenting with live game shows using online
contestants, as well as taking its Mystery Science Theater 3000 show and letting
viewers supply sarcastic commentary via the Internet said Ellen Kaye, the network's
vice president of enterprises.
NBC, said Edmond Sanctis, senior vice president of NBC
Digital Productions, has begun to extend its network television shows on the Internet by
developing Web sites that feature gaming and "parallel story lines."
To complement the NBC Saturday night show The
Pretenders, for example, the network has set up a Pretender Adventure site
online that allows users to play a game based on the TV show and, in the process, actually
become a character in a story from the show or even "help create" a story for
The network's highly acclaimed program Homicide
also has a complementary Web site, Homicide: Second Shift, that fills in the back
story for the show's plot and develops parallel stories and characters. The draw for
rabid fans, Sanctis said, is that, "if you want to get the whole story, you have to
The executives also stressed the importance of
cross-promoting Web sites on network TV shows and vice-versa.
Lifetime's online soap opera House of Dreams is
a good example of the network's "volleyball strategy" of using TV to drive
online traffic and promoting TV shows on the Internet, according toBrian Donlon,
vice president of Sports and New Media for Lifetime Television.
NBC's Sanctis said The Pretender Adventure Web
site traffic increased "1,000 percent" after it was promoted on the TV show. It
works the other way as well, according to E!'s Verba, who said network viewership had
risen as a result of online promotion and distribution deals.
Whether or not there will be actual "convergence"
between the two mediums was a matter of dispute. Matt Jacobson, executive vice president
for News Corp.'s Technology Group, declared that "convergence is already here,
we're just waiting for bandwidth to catch up."
But an executive in the audience who is charge of the
online division of one the country's largest cable operators said the networks had
not made "the business case" for convergence. "It's still nebulous and
ill-conceived," he said.
But executives did agree that online programming would
continue to grow as a brand extension for the network and develop increasingly creative
and original content that would also seep into TV broadcasts.
"Now we're finally comfortable that [online and
on-air] is a match made in heaven, not hell," said Sanctis. No one dissented.
Intel Plans Online Shopping
|New York -- If Intel has anything to say
about it, online offerings will eventually include a product that allows users to play
music and videos on demand -- and then buy the product if they like what they see or hear.
Intertainer, one of the products using Intel technology,
demonstrated software at the Jupiter conference that allowed users to download prerecorded
CDs onto a recordable CD in 10 minutes.
Jonathan Taplin, Intertainer's CEO, said the product
is currently being tested in one telephone company market using asymmetrical digital
subscriber line broadband delivery and one cable system using cable modems.
Ron Whittier, senior vice president of content for Intel,
predicted that "very soon media will be sold end-to-end over the Internet with
electronic fulfillment." Jupiter Communications forecasted online buyers increasing
more than 50 percent a year through the year 2002, expanding from 10.3 million households
in 1997 to 61 million homes in 2002.