AOL, Arianna Huffington Launch Huffington TV: Broadcast and Cable 'Curated and Aggregated'

TV 2012: Breaking News From the Very Near Future, Part 1 of 3

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Editor's note: As part of our special TV Issue, we asked our Media Guy columnist to gaze into his crystal ball to divine the future of the medium. Here's Part 1 of his three-part report from... next year.

Feb. 6, 2012 [New York] -- AOL editorial boss Arianna Huffington today launched Huffington TV, a new web-based "channel for channels" that she promised would "revolutionize the way we watch our favorite programs by aggregating the best TV has to offer." At a press conference held at AOL headquarters in downtown Manhattan, she explained that a team of Huffington Post video bloggers has been hard at work curating the offerings of the major broadcast and cable networks to present the "most compelling content on TV in an easily digestible form."

Arianna Huffington Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

On Huffington TV's 30 Rock Channel at huffingtonpost.tv, viewers can find episodes of the hit NBC sitcom "30 Rock" subtly re-edited by AOL staffers. For instance, the "30 Rock" episode titled "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lighting," which originally aired on NBC with a run-time of 21 minutes and 38 seconds plus commercials, appears on Huffington TV in a version that totals an even 18 minutes; in addition, a Huffington Post video blogger summarizes the excised three minutes and 38 seconds in a 30-second segment that follows the curated content. Commercials that originally aired in the NBC telecast have been removed; instead, pre-roll, post-roll and eight interstitial ads, sold by AOL's advertising team, appear in the Huffington TV version.

In a demo of AOL's latest offering, Ms. Huffington pointed to the ease with which viewers can find content not only by program titles and network names, but by character and actor names. For instance, one offering titled The Gloria Delgado-Pritchett Channel, after the popular character from the ABC sitcom "Modern Family," can also be found under The Sofia Vergara Channel, after the actress who plays the Gloria character, as well as That Modern Family Colombian Funny Lady Channel, The Jay 's Wife on Modern Family Channel and The Big -Breasted Funny Foreign Lady From That Family Show With the Gays On It Channel. The variously-titled channels all offer the same content: strung-together snippets of the Gloria character saying things like "He scared the baby cheeses out of me!" and "I am the second wife, Jay ! Why do you treat me like I'm the first?!"

Ms. Huffington said that AOL has no plans to share advertising revenue with the networks and studios whose shows are aggregated on Huffington TV. "We are picking the best of the best content," she insisted, "and we're sending traffic back to the creators that produced it so they can monetize it. It's a vin-vin situation."

Somewhat controversially, Huffington TV also aggregates, and inserts its own commercials into, commercial-free offerings from subscription cable networks including HBO and Showtime—a premium model whose days are numbered, Ms. Huffington insisted. "The more people who put their content behind pay walls, the better it is for us. We are betting that content will be free, except maybe for financial information or weird porn," she added. At that point in the press conference, Ms. Huffington began to scribble notes on a piece of paper, then looked up from her podium and announced that "We will be taking a short break."

When the press conference resumed 15 minutes later, Ms. Huffington announced that two minutes earlier Huffington TV had launched The Weird Porn and Financial News Channel, or WPFN, which presents segments TiVo'd from CNBC interspersed with hard-corn porn aggregated by pointing a camcorder at an airport Ramada TV tuned to the Adult Spice pay-per-view channel.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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