The cable-news battle on the Internet has intensified, with Fox News Channel and Cable News Network revamping their sites in efforts to draw in more users and advertisers.
Over the past two weeks, Fox News (www.foxnews.com) nearly doubled its broadband video streams after bundling its entire free online video product within its proprietary news video player.
For its part, CNN (www.cnn.com) has ditched its online subscription video service in favor of a free-content offering.
Third-ranked cable news service MSNBC has long been a proponent of free video streaming, proffering an array of on-demand and live content across a swath of categories since the late 1990s.
NEW FOX PLAYER
Although foxnews.com had been presenting free streaming-video content, users previously had to open and close the player for each video story or feature accessed. Through its new enhanced video player, which launched June 13, users now only have to open the video player once to access a menu of news, entertainment, commentary and other video fare.
Overall, the network offers about 50 to 60 clips a day, including hourly news segments.
In the week following the enhanced video player's June 13 debut, the site averaged 350,000 streams a day, double the 175,000 prior to its launch. “We've seen a lot of positive reaction to this, not only from the viewer response but through e-mails that we've received,” Solivan said.
He said the new player also provides a more attractive platform for sponsors. Currently, Verizon Wireless and BMW are among the bigger companies advertising on the site.
Eventually, he said the network will look to offer its video clips to wireless services like cell phones and portable media centers. “The wireless world is another platform that we will be in.”
Despite the improved early returns, Solivan said Fox has no plans to charge for access to its video server. “We contemplated that, like everyone else in this space, but I think we're quite comfortable with the free model and having it advertiser-supported,” he said. “Anytime we put up a barrier or perceived barrier to our users to get to the content, it lessens the experience.”
CNN GOES FREE
CNN on June 20 joined Fox News and MSNBC in offering free online video content, after charging viewers $4.95 per month since 2002 to access news, sports and entertainment content from its Web site.
CNN.com is making high-quality videos available in a wide-screen format. It features the most popular news stories of the day across 14 categories, including top stories, business, sports, entertainment and health.
“CNN.com's customers want our news delivered to them when and where they want it, whether it's on TV, the Internet or mobile phones,” said Susan Grant, executive vice president of CNN News Services in an e-mail correspondence. “As broadband usage is fast becoming an integral part of our users' daily Web experience, and as the cost of streaming video has dramatically decreased, now is the time for CNN.com to once again offer our users free video.”
CNN would not reveal how many subscribers its subscription site had captured over the years.
“The feedback has been extremely positive overall,” said Grant. “Specifically, they like the restyling of the site, which better integrates video within the site and makes the video easier to access; the video player, which allows them a variety of ways to sort and browse the video; and the bigger screen in the player, which makes the video easier to watch.”
CNN said it has signed Chase and General Motors Corp. as presenting sponsors for its free video offering. The marketing packages include category exclusivity for Chase and GM brand Cadillac, tagged promotional spots on all CNN Networks, and tagged promotional banners throughout CNN.com.
While CNN.com is offering free video content, it's not totally abandoning the subscription concept. This fall, CNN.com will launch a premium video news service that will include multiple live video streams, access to CNN's video archives and innovative user-customized options, said the network.
Both Fox News and CNN are playing catch-up to MSNBC (www.msnbc.com) in this part of the news arena. The top-rated news site in March and April, with some 24.8 million and 23.6 million unique users, respectively, MSNBC.com trailed only Yahoo! in May, according to NielsenNet Ratings.
On the streaming side, MSNBC officials said its site averages 35 million free streams per month, with video available through on-demand clips, across a number of categories, including news, business, health and sports, and on a live, breaking news basis. For instance, the site attracted 630,598 live video streams of the recent Michael Jackson verdict, as part of 2.17 million live and on-demand clips for that celebrity case.
Without disclosing dollar figures, an MSNBC spokeswoman said video ad revenues have grown 486% over year-ago levels. Its ad roster includes GM and Procter & Gamble.