Natpe focuses on online presence of TV stations

MUMBAI: At a time when television revenue in the US is either flat or down, a panel discussion a few days ago at the television trade event Natpe proved that TV station Web sites can make money online.

The session, produced and moderated by WorldNow CEO Gary Gannaway, was called Who Wants to Be an Online Millionaire?. It featured convergence advertising models from three television executives whose web sites have raked in $1 million or more in annual revenue.

Panellists included Christine DiStadio of The New York Times Broadcast Media Group, Paul King of Raycom Media, and Bob Singer of KOIN-TV in Portland, Oregon.

Gannaway says, "The main message of this session is that online revenue is real and that it can work for advertisers. Our panellists illustrated this through recent advertising and sponsorship campaigns for such desired categories as auto, real estate, health and home improvement."

DiStadio cited the example of WREG-TV in Memphis, which saw its national TV revenue drop from $10 million in 2000 to $8 million today. While the station's web revenue was zero in 2000, convergence revenue has taken the station revenue to more than $1 million today.

She says, "There is a real market emerging under our feet right now. Use the power of the product you know best -- broadcast television, your core business -- to drive top line revenue through new business development with emerging media. It's the only way we are going to grow. The strongest weapon -- TV -- in your toolbox is the bridge to your future."

She described the vital importance of incorporating video, multi-screen presence, and consumer engagement into a station's online strategy. "Broadband video is changing the way people discover and interact. According to a survey by comScore, the average consumer watches about 100 minutes of video on the web every month.

"Freshness and speed will trump high production values. Web video is different." Paul King, who oversees 40 station

websites for Raycom Media, described the secret ingredients that helped generate $1.25 million in online revenue in 2006 -- 9.6 per cent of the total ad sales for the station for WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina. Those ingredients include such daypart strategies as surround sessions and video streaming.

"Local TV broadcasters should now be selling dayparts in a new way: through online advertising. Those prime demos that advertisers want are all reachable during the day -- they're just accessing the stations through their computers at work, rather than through their televisions at home."

Meanwhile, Singer discussed the revenue growth enjoyed in a short amount of time by Koin-TV, which is virtually brand-new to the online game. In one year, Koin expects to reach its goal of more than $1 million in online revenue -- proving that it does not take years to develop a successful Internet strategy and monetise locally if you put the right resources behind your advertising sales team.

"I'm just an average general manager in an average TV market. I figured I could accept our fate based on our somewhat average ratings position in the marketplace or I could look for creative new ways to boost our revenue. I'm glad I decided to do the latter."

All three panellists addressed the issue of internal versus external online resources: Should stations try to control the

development of their Web sites by utilising internal staff resources or hiring new staff for the job -- or should they rely on the expertise of an outside company that specialises in the online arena?

King says, "I've done it both ways. And I'm here to tell you that the internal staff needs to stay focussed on the core business, which is still broadcast television of course. Find a seasoned partner with strong technology and proven ad-sales experience to handle this burgeoning business for you."

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