Owning them elsewhere

Canadian nets are broadening their reach by adding content online and on-air

Conventional and specialty TV networks have made great strides in getting content online. Whether it means arranging broadband rights when negotiating for U.S. series or pumping homegrown shows and live programming onto the net, there’s a lot of choice coming from Canadian broadcasters for both video-snacking and full-episode-stream options.

For some nets, it’s been difficult to monetize streaming in Canada and the U.S., but abandoning the strategy doesn’t sit well with the market. Take the case of CW. The net made headlines for pulling Gossip Girl offline to get more viewers watching on-air, but the show’s popularity on iTunes was a factor in getting the OK for season two.

It somehow makes sense that a solution comes from a company that got its start in short-form online content – and made waves this summer with its monetization tech.

As TV broadcasters were pitching content to advertisers in June, male-targeted Heavy.com was announcing several moves of interest to the industry. First came the spinoff of its video advertising unit into a full-fledged solution open to content producers, the Husky Media Network. Then CBSSports.com picked up Heavy’s syndicated parody series Burly Sports, which beat CBS for a Webby Award this year. And in June, Corus Radio signed on to roll out Heavy video content across the sites of stations like 102.1 The Edge and Q107.

Now The Score is set to become the first broadcaster to ink a major deal with Heavy and Husky Media. The net was in negotiations to roll out Burly Sports and Knob Hockey League (both weekly shows) by midsummer, promote KHL in the fall via interstitials and put short-form content on the airwaves.

‘It’ll be the first time you’ll see content created for the web and pushed to TV immediately,’ says Heavy Canada managing director David U.K., adding that The Score’s ‘Home For the Hardcore’ branding was a perfect fit for KHL.

The series is sponsored by Virgin Mobile, and is open to more advertising. U.K. says The Score and Heavy will be ‘working together’ to bring in advertisers. ‘We’re not only going to provide advertisers with a branding experience around Knob Hockey; we’re going to script advertisers into it,’ says U.K.

The Husky Media video monetization platform can wrap any video player with Heavy.com‘s ‘video-skin’ – a high-CPM ad unit that surrounds the video content. Husky also gives advertisers access to psychographics and includes music, entertainment and sports. U.K. says the advertising is ‘non-intrusive. The user is forced to watch one commercial in-stream. But we serve one commercial for every four videos, two minutes per hour.’

Another feature is a video guide, which U.K. calls ‘TiVo or PVR for the web. It’s no longer about going from page to page. This is about giving the user the power to browse all the video content on the website. This can be a solution for broadcasters, publishers and bloggers to monetize video on their website, and increase the branding in a non-intrusive manner. And it can work with any video player.’

The Score isn’t the only broadcaster to put online content on its sked. Lil’Bush was a web-only show on CTV’s Comedy Network site, but as season two premiered June 30, the net was planning to push the first eps onto the airwaves by July 13.

Last year, Showcase, Showcase Action and IFC (all now owned by Canwest) announced plans to air Heavy.com shows in prime time on Saturdays. And several nets have since been testing web-only series. A year ago, Slice.ca launched Where’d You Get That?, a seven-ep series produced with ChickAdvisor.com. In fall 2007, the net launched seven eps of Working It: Gals About Town, followed by three eps of Working It: Series Two and the two-part webisode series Slice & the Single Girl. And Showcase.ca launched a 12-webisode series called Hot Snack Radio, rolling out two eps every Thursday heading into May.

Canwest Broadcasting SVP digital media Laura Tanner says her team’s strategy includes experimentation with video formats and lengths, creating supplementary content and streaming full eps of shows across sites like Showcase, Slice, HGTV, Global and E!.

‘We’ve seen healthy adoption,’ says Tanner of the initiatives. ‘Advertisers are increasingly interested in buying pre-roll, and looking to buy across a number of different media and content presentations.’