NBC Universal Invests in driverTV

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@radical.media-produced auto content channel driverTV received a leg up today from NBC Universal, which announced its acquisition of 35% of the video demo site at the New York International Auto Show, paying a reported $6 million. The site also announced distribution partners including, initially, NBC.com and MySpace.

"These virtual showroom experiences are the backbone of the channel; from that backbone we want to spread out and create other forms of content, educational content, shooting concept cars, vintage cars, all with that core idea of celebrating the car," says DriverTV CEO Jan Renner.

NBC Universal's chief digital officer George Kliavkoff said NBC considered driverTV as part of "a series of digital channels and networks similar to cable networks but without the linear distribution."

The VOD service is already carried by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Insight and the Hotel Network, reaching, according to the company, nearly 30 million homes—but the nascent site, still in beta, wasn't reaching the consumers the company wanted.

"We were saying How do we get people to come to our site?" says @radical media and entertainment president Robert Friedman. "From a selling proposition our site was pretty unique because it's a showroom in the living room. But it doesn't matter how great the content was, unless we had a marketing partner that could generate eyeballs, because the cost of getting those eyeballs on your own is very expensive."

With the investment, Friedman listed coming steps including tie-ins to local car dealers, an increase in original programming and content like the educational "Driver's Ed" segments and more branded content and programming from OEMs as well as expanding on existing services to produce content.

Launched in 2005 after Renner approached @radical with the idea, driverTV is both a broadband destination site and Video On Demand channel. Auto manufacturers pay the company to produce the introductory videos as well based on user volume. Banner ads are also sold against the content. The deal gives the virtual showroom an in with the NBC crowd, with the network's site better able to bring driverTV to potential buyers with a more targeted demographic approach.

Part of the appeal of NBC's courtship, Friedman says, was its openness to other deals, allowing driverTV to work with MySpace as well as the broadcast giant. "They believed in being non-exclusive as a partner; this is no longer a one trick pony where you can go out there with one distribution partner."
Robert Friedman, @radical.media entertainment and media president and Jan Renner, founder and CEO of driverTV.
Robert Friedman, @radical.media entertainment and media president and Jan Renner, founder and CEO of driverTV.
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