MTVN Expands Web Presence

NEW YORK MTV Networks is planning to create a series of unique Web destinations centered on its most popular shows and programming themes.

The company intends to repackage content from shows such as MTV’s Web Junk 20 and VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture for use on several stand-alone vertical Web sites that will be unveiled in the first half of 2007.

The first such vertical channel was actually launched earlier this year for the VH1 hit Best Week Ever. At Bestweekever.tv, the show’s fans can view exclusive video clips, dig deeper into pop culture history and create their own customized content packages. Also this year, though in a different vein, MTV launched Virtual Laguna Beach, a playground for fans to create personalized avatars that live in a virtual world similar to the one featured in the popular teen drama.

The company has also experimented in this area by acquiring the complementary sites AfterEllen.com, AfterElton.com and 365Gay.com.

Starting next year, MTVN said it would introduce 20-plus online content hubs to serve its shows’ most-involved fans, including MTV’s Yo Momma and Sweet Sixteen. Beyond Web venues built around individual series, new community sites are in the works for fans of popular MTVN genres and topics, such as hip-hop music, celebrity gossip, amateur talent contests and VH1’s various list-based programs.

Executives at MTVN said that the ongoing fragmentation in media is necessitating even more narrow content offerings.

“These [sites] serve as successful models for a new interactive, hyper-programming approach and represent the next phase in the evolution of media for consumers, from broadcast networks to cable channels and now to hyper-programmed verticals,” said Van Toffler, president of MTVN’s music and logo division.

While called an evolution by Toffler, the move toward building vertical channels on the Web would seem to represent a shift in strategy for MTVN. In the past several years, the company expanded its online footprint by acquiring popular Internet companies with complementary audiences, such as Atom Films and Neopets, while focusing its efforts on building branded broadband destinations, like MTV Overdrive and VH1’s VSPOT.

At this point, it’s not clear whether niche sites built around specific network shows will detract from the programming makeup of MTVN’s own broadband sites.