How 'Aol On' is looking more like a TV network

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

This past May the web video industry invested in upfronts (only they call them NewFronts) more than ever before. The glitz and glamour that has helped the TV industry hold onto billions is creeping into the established video players who are looking to capitalize on the cord-cutting, device-agnostic viewer. Aol recently had the most glossy of them all, even giving away a Ford car. The company that now owns 5min, Huffington Post and TechCrunch launched Aol On, making them look more like a TV network than ever before.

The history of the upfronts:

If you don’t understand how the upfronts came to be so important to the TV industry, there’s a wonderful history written here at SalesVantage.com. In short, TV networks get to package their sexiest primetime programming to sell it to brands as soon as possible (for example, CBS just finished theirs a week ago). Now Aol can smartly do the same thing by packaging their best content that lives across multiple devices under the ‘On’ brand, which according to their release, “brings AOL’s entire video offering under one umbrella that delivers premium content at significant scale within desired audience segments; and the hub, which is the consumer-facing experience.”

How Aol On is like a TV network:

In October, we interviewed Ran Harnevo, Aol’s SVP of Video about creating a primetime for online video. Harnevo spoke with Lost Remote about the goals with On and how curation for Aol’s video is no different than programming. “We took all of the content, 320,000 videos and growing, in a very human way, its not algorithms,” he explained to Lost Remote about creating Aol On. He compared On to a TV network. “The NBC network is not only NBC, it’s BRAVO, affiliates, local stations – we think we’ve built an equivalent on the web,” he explained. “We program for every screen for every platform – it’s a new style of programming that includes technology, it’s programming at scale.”

The upcoming launching of HuffPo Live:

Later this summer, Aol’s Huffington Post is launching a live, online streaming network starting with 12 hours of live programming five days a week. “We’re not a news network. We’re conversations about the news,” says HuffPo’s Roy Sekoff, whose close to hiring the final staff for the effort. “And we’re not doing television talk. We want to have real conversations. What we’re going for is the most social video experience anywhere.”

How advertisers will benefit from Aol On:

He described how advertisers will benefit from On and how different Aol’s video offering is from competitors. “Advertisers can go to Aol.com where we literally program content, if you go there right now you would see a very thoughtful process of putting the content in front of you,” he explained. On other video portals all you see is algorithms.”

Problems with video discovery and Aol’s social video technology”

“The main reason TV is so social today, there’s a real problem in discovery,” Harnevo described. “How do you discover good content – you don’t go to YouTube,” he added. “Social is the only way for people to engage with videos that their friends like.”

He described how Aol On will leverage the vast knowledge that Huff Post has of consumers. “When we program our content, we use a lot of Huff Post technology on the social side to understand what’s hot, what’s emerging, what people like,” he explained. “Videos are so highly syndicated that conversation doesn’t always take place on a specific site. It happens on Facebook, Twitter, the rest.”


Aol On promotional video aimed at advertisers

Aol On isn’t a portal, it’s a one-stop shop for advertisers:

It would be easy for one to think that Aol is trying to get their viewers to come to a destination instead of just enjoying their video where they want. This isn’t the case at all, especially since Harnevo’s company, 5min.com, which was acquired along with him by Aol almost two years ago, was the complete opposite.

“The most important thing to understand, we want the AOL On network to be ‘on every topic, on every page, on every screen,” he told Lost Remote. “It’s a different strategy than most other players that are going for big destination, we are going for an in context in network at the right scale.”

Will Aol’s programming succeed?

For the web video world it seems like they have some catchy titles in the works and underway. One, Fetching, is even written by Sex and The City’s Amy Harris. The key will be if they’ll start getting the TV press to write about one their shows, as if they’re shocked that it’s not on TV.

This world is definitely converging. Aol is becoming more like a TV network. TV network’s are experimenting with shorter-form web-type content and are launching their own NewFronts to showcase their web scale.

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