INTERACTIVE: DELL, SONY, SPRINT TO TEST INTERACTIVE TV SPOTS ON THE WEB

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Progressive networks is bringing interactive TV commercials to the Web.

Progressive, which will kick off its commercial Webcast plans today, has signed at least five charter advertisers: Dell Computer Corp., The Gap, General Motors Corp.'s Buick division, Sony Electronics and Sprint Corp.

Initially, sponsors will run recycled TV commercials between RealVideo programs accessible from Progressive's Web site (www.realaudio.com).

Progressive created the Web's popular RealAudio standard for streaming audio, and it launched RealVideo in February in hopes of setting the standard (AA, Feb. 10).

AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION

Its competitors, which include VDONet Corp., InterVU and VXtreme, haven't come close to Progressive's market share; it claims up to 12 million users for its audio and video software. Progressive said more than 3 million copies of RealPlayer, free software that lets users access audio and RealVideo, have been downloaded.

Progressive now will experiment with ways to send over the Web what TV has been unable to deliver: interactive commercials.

Progressive will test response to both 15- and 30-second spots, which will be "image mapped" so a consumer can click directly to an advertiser's Web site.

During the next year, it expects to begin Webcasting commercials produced to take advantage of the Web's interactive capabilities. Spots will run between video feeds from RealVideo content producers, including ABC, CBS, Fox, Comedy Central and Warner Bros. Online.

$25 TO $50 CPM

John Atcheson, VP-general manager of content development at Progressive, said prices will be like banner advertising, with a cost-per-thousand viewers of about $25 to $50, depending on where the spot runs.

"We absolutely plan to be at the very leading edge" of video streaming ads, Mr. Atcheson said, creating models and working with content partners to place advertising.

Because the advertising and video technology are so intertwined, Progressive initially will handle ad sales. It also will split ad revenue with content partners, an interesting approach considering that a tech provider doesn't usually make money when an ad using its technology is sold.

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