VOD Play Makes Car Buying Easier Than Root Canal

DriverTV's On-Demand Is in Demand, With More Than 1 Million Views a Month

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- A surprising number of car buyers would rather go to the dentist than visit an auto dealership. No wonder DriverTV has been on a tear.
When DriverTV gets new vehicles from its clients, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Toyota Motor Sales USA, a 40-person production team shoots a high-definition video for each model.
When DriverTV gets new vehicles from its clients, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Toyota Motor Sales USA, a 40-person production team shoots a high-definition video for each model.

100,000 monthly views
The New York company linked with cable giant Comcast last November to run free video-on-demand profiles of new vehicles, generating about 100,000 views monthly.

Since March it has been available to Time Warner and Cox digital-cable subscribers and in 400,000 hotel rooms via Liberty Media's On-Command Hotel Network, tallying more than a million views in both March and April, said Jan Renner, founder and CEO.

New distribution deals
This week, it adds Insight, the nation's eighth-largest multiple-system operator, and Mr. Renner said an announcement with DriverTV's first major Spanish-language MSO is imminent, as is a deal with a wireless provider for shorter videos. Also in the wings is the launch of DriverTV.com for broadband users.

When DriverTV gets new vehicles from its clients, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Toyota Motor Sales USA, a 40-person production team shoots a high-definition video for each model. The average viewing time is three minutes.

"We have 115 cars and we want 300," Mr. Renner said. He declined to reveal what automakers are charged for the service but admitted he wrangles a bit with clients over what the views are worth. "We want higher [rates] and they want lower."

GM gets in the game
GM was first to hook up with DriverTV and has just over 50 of its models profiled, said Paul Taylor, director-media operations at the carmaker. "Consumers are gravitating to DriverTV, which gives us another outlet for them to shop for our vehicles."

GM's strategy was to link with DriverTV early, gather learnings and develop its own separate version, the GM Showroom, which was launched in April on Comcast and Cox. It provides VODs similar to DriverTV's but with more of a brand slant. The Showroom will be added to Time Warner Cable by the end of May and to Cablevision by late June.

Cable operators promote DriverTV with commercials to try to entice non-digital-cable subscribers, who make up roughly half their customers, Mr. Renner said. The cable systems plan to start selling ads on DriverTV, and it will target more than just car companies, he said, mentioning insurance as a possible category.

GM's 800,000-plus views
Down the road, Mr. Martin said, GM will advertise both DriverTV and its Showroom VODs in local markets with, say, newspaper ads for particular models. He compared DriverTV to a third-party auto Web site, such Edmunds.com, and the GM Showroom to the sites for GM's vehicle divisions.

The auto giant has gotten 800,000-plus views on DriverTV. For now, GM measures its return on investment through the number of views, the amount of time per view and cross-shopping. The carmaker also learns which parts of the country are viewing which models b ut has no way to track video viewings directly to vehicle sales-at least not yet. "The cable companies have to provide the technological capability on their end," Mr. Martin said.
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