Making an online original push

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of strategy.

As broadcasters ramp up their existing on-demand and on-the-go platforms, two media companies are stepping into the online original content space.

Both Bell Media-owned CTV and Corus Entertainment’s W Network launched original content hubs in May, offering a different take on the future of online content.

CTV Extend, an ad-supported digital hub available to anyone in Canada, sets the table for the broadcaster to air short-form content, including online exclusives like a digital spinoff of the Veronica Mars series announced during the upfronts, stand-alone online original series like Backpackers and Guidestones made available for binge-viewing, as well as spinoffs of all CTV’s linear programming, such as Saving Hope: Last Call.

“We want to create an environment not just for viewers but for advertisers who see value in the ability to own a piece of this exclusive space,” says Mike Cosentino, SVP programming for CTV networks.

Extend is available as its own platform and is also bolted on to the CTV Go app, which provides cable subscribers on-the-go access to live streaming and on-demand content. This creates a more robust mobile application for consumers, Cosentino says.

Cosentino says Bell is putting the full might of its primetime TV programming and digital properties behind promoting Extend, and the company is offering pre-roll and overlay ads.

Corus launched a reality web series, #RippleEffect (pictured), on June 4, making a bold foray into online storytelling to test engagement levels for the viewer-driven series.

The series, which had its first two episodes funded in part by Bell Fund’s TV Development Digital Pilot, centred on three women pursuing goals in Toronto, with viewers able to send feedback and advice to the women on social media as the show was filmed, potentially altering the women’s decisions and direction of the show.

Corus sold ads around the programming housed on Wnetwork.com, but no advertisers had come on-board initially for the two-episode pilot.

It was promoted on the site, W Network’s newsletter, as well as on TV, said John MacDonald, VP, television, head of Corus women and family.

MacDonald called the series an online experiment because of its format, but also for Corus to see the appetite for that kind of programming.

“Hopefully they’ll try it, they’ll participate and we’ll learn the level of engagement that a show like this can generate,” he said prior to the show airing, adding that one of the goals is to see if “it can actually yield the kind of interaction that helps us in a story-telling standpoint.” No word yet at press time on whether it will be picked up for further episodes.

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