Former AOLers Look at TV Station Web Sites

What keeps a TV station working with a Web enabler after it has earned enough money to do it itself? That’s a question for all the leading Web enablers — WorldNow, Internet Broadcasting Systems and Broadcast Interactive Media. All three companies have pretty much responded the same way: feed in national advertisers, leverage portal relationships with vertical players and provide sales consultation at the local level.

Internet Broadcasting Systems, which is owned by a consortium of station groups, has responded to the challenges by bringing in an infusion of new management from the AOL Local and Search team (between Autobytel and IB, are there any former AOL Local/Search people left?) In June, IB recruited AOL exec David Lebow as CEO. In turn, he brought in Arul Sundaram as VP of business development.

Sundaram says the similarities AOL and IB have as media companies are pretty clear. The difference is that AOL was always sold out with its limited inventory. “IB has inventory in spades,” he says. With the aggregated traffic from its 70 TV station Web sites — 17 million to 20 million unique visitors — “IB is making more than all of AOL Local and City Guide.”

Sundaram doesn’t see that the consortium of owners is necessarily going to pool its resources, create a TV equivalent of a Classified Ventures and aggressively target various verticals. Instead, the vendor’s role is seen as “running the national ad network, enabling local ad sales and generating inventory. Those are the assets this company has.”

“It is a good spot to be in right now. Regional and large local players are coming online,” he says. There really is a significant opportunity around geotargeted. The company’s sales have increased at 3x the rate of overall advertising (of course, TV stations are starting from a lower base).

Key drivers of the growth include custom sponsorship packages, video advertising, standard IAB ads and TV/Web convergence packages. The national sales are a mixture of a pure sale among the 70 stations, which include all the top 20 markets. Other national efforts include integration with Centro‘s sales packages, which tend to include a mix of media channels.

Sundaram sees additional opportunities in developing mix and match content. “Because we manage the sites, we do a lot of custom stuff.” One example he cites is the addition of recipe tips from The Food Network for a food advertiser.

Another advantage IB brings to the table is established relationships with verticals such as Monster. “That brings in classified ad dollars” that the stations wouldn’t otherwise see, he says. The vendor has recently partnered with Pluck‘s SiteLife Social Media site to leverage user-generated content as well.

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