LX.TV: By Any Vehicle Necessary

LX.TV intends to do for the emerging out-of-home video medium what Hollywood studios do for prime-time TV. A new breed of production company, LX.TV, a standalone division of NBC Local Media, provides local lifestyle and cultural content to all of NBC’s local media platforms, including NBC Everywhere’s portfolio of OOH digital networks targeting audiences in taxis, universities, gas pumps and arenas, as well as local TV stations and Web sites.

The unit, purchased by NBCU in January, was founded in April 2006 by two former MTV executives, Morgan Hertzan and Joseph Varet. As executive producer and director of business development, the two were responsible for developing various broadband channels for MTV, including mtvU and the cable network’s video billboard in New York’s Times Square. “There was nothing out there that fused video with Zagat-type print content,” said Hertzan, who is now senior vp of original programming and general manager of LX.TV.

LX.TV began with online programming, migrating it to WNBC-TV, NBC network’s New York flagship. It wasn’t long before LX.TV caught the eye of NBC’s John Wallace, who, as president of NBC Local Media, wanted to take a new approach to the traditional TV group organization that would embrace new media platforms and content beyond traditional news, weather and sports.  

“We felt the local lifestyle content genre was important to the marketplace,” said Wallace. “The TV business is still a great business, but you have to be realistic about consumer behavior. News is important to consumers, but if they choose to go out to dinner, that’s important as well.”

Instead of simply repackaging familiar NBC content and hosts, LX.TV is devoted exclusively to original content. The unit even has its own on-air staff. Pedro Andrade, for example, hosts LX.TV’s recently launched reality show, On The Rocks: The Search for America’s Top Bartender, sponsored exclusively by Absolut Vodka. Played out over 10 episodes among 10 contestants, the main platforms for the On The Rocks are online and in taxis. “Absolut wanted to reinforce their position with bartenders,” Hertzan said. “Bartenders aren’t at home to watch TV, so the best place was in the taxis and online.”

Over time, Hertzan has learned a few lessons about how to maximize content for each medium. “We know in taxis, people will pay attention to city-guide type content,” he said. “On the Web, it’s a more inside audience, so we go longer and include more content. On TV, we pick the most dramatic content. The university network gets more entertainment content such as celebrity profiles, cut down shorter than TV.” For On The Rocks, the Web portion is 7 minutes, the taxi 60 seconds and the TV vignette 90 seconds.

Based on feedback he gets from viewers, Hertzan believes that platforms other than TV can be a primary viewing vehicles with just as loyal an audience. Hosts are a big part of that strategy. “For out of home video, you need to make sure the hosts and presenters are [right], because that will be what pulls the viewer in,” he said. “We can make these hosts just as well known. TV isn’t the only medium.”

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