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SYNDICATORS ROLL OUT THEIR STARS AT NATPE
Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Megan Mullally Vie for Attention
That was the gist of a NATPE panels that focused on what traditional media companies have to lose -- and to gain -- in expanding the definition of syndication to the online, mobile and on-demand spaces.
Fox, for example, is working with Twentieth Television and “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane to create original content based on the show for other media. It plans to offer up a late-night online talk show hosted by “Family Guy” character Stewie that “will live and breathe on familyguy.com and our network of sites,” said Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive Media. (Fox Broadcasting airs the animated comedy series on Sunday nights.)
'Make some money'
“I actually think we’re going to make some money on it,” he added. “There’s a lot of interest from Madison Avenue.”
Jeff Gaspin, who heads digital media for NBC Universal’s cable division, expects NBC’s online Olympics coverage to be profitable. He called the company’s coverage of the Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004 a “beta version” what it will do with the Winter Games next month. “This is a real business model,” he said.
Mr. Gaspin also noted that NBC, with a number of partners, was able to leverage its diet-reality show “The Biggest Loser” into an online dieting subscription business, along the lines of Jennycraig.com or eDiets. “The Biggest Loser” service charges $19.99 a month and with more than 30,000 subscribers boasts 5% of the online diet market.
“There’s still a tremendous amount of power driving people to the Web,” he said. “We saw with 'Biggest Loser' success on air, but probably even more success online.”
Walt Disney Internet Group President Steve Wadsworth talked about the company’s plans for Disney Mobile, a branded cellphone service targeting families. Disney already has created ESPN Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator based on Disney's cable-sports powerhouse.
Making a better utility
“Phones are essentially a utility. The question is, How do we make the phone a better utility for that targeted audience?” he said. “We own everything from a handset to software to billing.” And while there’s significant cost to acquiring subscribers -- handsets are subsidized and there’s an outlay on retail level -- the revenue payoff is significant.
CBS, meanwhile, will stream all of the men’s college basketball "March Madness" games free to consumers, with ad support making the project financially viable. “That’s a reflection of advertisers willing to be on the medium,” said Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media. “A year ago that was a pay-per-view product.” Of course, he said that unlike broadcast TV, the greater number of Internet viewers, the greater the cost to CBS because of the bandwidth needed to broadcast the game online.
Mr. Kramer went on to talk about how CBS News’ online viewers were on average 15 years younger than CBS’s TV news viewers. Mr. Gaspin drew laughter when he asked about the network's online age: “What is that -- 70?”
The talk about successful new businesses provided a fitting bookend to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, “The Rise in Lifestyle Media,” introduced that morning to a standing room-only morning panel (door attendants were turning people away because the rooms’ occupancy had surpassed fire code regulations). The report detailed how consumers are calling the shots thanks to media convergence.
And media sellers aren’t the only ones to gain. When asked by Deborah Bothun, U.S. entertainment and media advisory leader for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, whether new media would make the advertising pie bigger, smaller or different, Ogilvy & Mather North America Co-CEO Carla Hendra democratically replied, “It’s probably all those things. For us, it’s resulted in tremendous growth.”