When The Huffington Post introduced its streaming video network HuffPost Live this morning, viewers were greeted with a nontraditional video experience that gave just as much real estate to viewer comments as it did video content.
For marketers, that nontraditional approach carried a hefty asking price. HuffPost Live initially asked $3 million to $5 million for launch sponsorships, Ad Age has learned. And the price of Verizon and Cadillac's launch sponsorships, which last through the end of the year, each hit seven figures, Huffington Post Publisher Janet Balis confirmed in an interview, although she declined to be more specific.
HuffPost Live arrives with the ambitious promise of 12 hours of live programming a day, five days a week, and a belief that video broadcasting in the social age should incorporate the opinions of everyday people as much as talking heads. The user experience Monday morning stressed viewer participation, devoting half of the screen to a stream of comments. At least initially, comments sometimes scrolled past too quickly to even read.
As part of that focus on viewers, The Huffington Post is saying that it is not going to incorporate any video ads into its live streams. Instead, when viewers loaded HuffPost Live this morning, they were greeted with a brief video message that announced "HuffPost Live is proud to have Cadillac as our founding partner." (Ms. Balis said the creative was still being readied for a similar clip for Verizon as of this morning. Another launch hiccup saw the Verizon logo missing for the first hour or so of broadcasting this morning.)
The two sponsors also get a small rectangular logo in the bottom-right section of the screen. But other than that , the sponsors are simply guaranteed that their brands will be mentioned in some way once every two hours of the live programming. HuffPost Live producers have menus of approved brand integrations and language to choose from. Initially, those integrations might be a traditional lower-third graphic on the video, or a verbal mention by a host when the timing seems appropriate.
In a telephone interview, Cadillac execs said it's going to take 30 to 60 days for them to start unveiling "custom integrations" into the live programming; they want to first study HuffPost Live viewer-consumption habits.
Ms. Balis said it is "highly unlikely" that commercials will ever appear during live broadcasting because the network's whole idea is to disrupt the model of traditional broadcasting.
If internet history is any indicator, however, much of the viewing of the content created by HuffPost Live will be consumed on demand -- where launch sponsors will have an outlet for their more traditional video ads. The Huffington Post said it will syndicate the clips across its own site as well as AOL's new video portal AOL On with 15- or 30-second pre-roll advertising. On-demand viewing of the live segments from this morning seemed to be available almost immediately after a segment aired.
So what goes on between segments without commercials? HuffPost Live has been alternately showing rather bland live footage of the HuffPost Live studio or testimonial-like video clips of "everyday people" explaining why they are looking forward to the network's launch.
As for the content itself, the segments thus far have ranged from a moderated political-themed debate powered by Google Hangouts, showing "everyday people" discussing Paul Ryan alongside a Huffington Post politics editor, to a segment on entertainment news tied to the Olympics' closing ceremony. Three hours in, HuffPost Live was running a segment titled "Lessons from Drag Queens."
Interestingly, the closing word in the political discussion came from a retired Marine who said on camera that the HuffPost conversation he just took part in sounded a lot like the partisan debates and punditry that HuffPost Live moderators were saying the network aspires to rise above. It may not have been the best initial endorsement for the network, but it was a sign that viewers really will have a voice there.