Time Inc. looks to OTT as path to brand expansion, increased ad dollars

By Jim O'Neill on May 05 2016 at 10:30 AM
Time Inc. looks to OTT as path to brand expansion, increased ad dollars

Coming out of NAB it was obvious 2016 was the year of OTT for broadcasters, but it appears publishers, too, see going direct to consumers with video as an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

The latest player? Time Inc., which today introduced the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, a free, advertiser-supported streaming video service that will broadcast original, long-form celebrity, pop culture, lifestyle and human interest series, specials and live event coverage.

Time Inc. Entertainment and Sports Group and Video President Rich Battista announced the new service at Time’s annual NewFront presentation in New York, saying the service would launch this fall on all digital platforms and devices, with more than 100 hours of original programming, including new programming daily, and a library of some 50-plus hours of content.

Time said it also will feature extensive coverage of awards shows, festivals and premieres.

“The People/Entertainment Weekly Network will distinguish itself by being the first free-to-consumer, advertiser-supported OTT service in the entertainment news category, creating original programming specifically designed for the lean-back, long-form environment,” said Battista. “We are confident that this network, anchored by the unparalleled access and storytelling prowess of the iconic People and EW brands, will prove to be a major new addition to the OTT space.”

Will the new network be a success?

That likely depends of how you define “success.”

More publishers are seeing aggressive OTT deployments as a strategy to reduce subscriber erosion and – hopefully – a way to reach the elusive Millennial audience.

And, as more ad dollars continue to migrate away from print advertising, it’s also another way to establish incremental revenue streams that could – in time – develop into mainstream cash flow.

Time’s efforts to recoup lost ad dollars in the form of higher-value online video ad revenues is a model the bulk of print companies are following, looking to leverage assets they already may be creating and giving away free.

But it’s not the only path embattled publishers are trying.

In April, Rodale – publisher of titles including Men’s Health and Runner’s World among others – said its Prevention magazine would stop running ads in the publication, a loss of more than 700 pages of ad revenue annually.

In an interview, Publisher Maria Rodale acknowledged that the magazine was “walking away from revenue,” but added that it was also “walking away from a lot of expense.”

The magazine has been in the red for the past two years and Rodale instead will try increasing the newsstand and subscription prices, a move she knows will likely also cut readership numbers substantially. But fewer pages, savings in production and materials and staffing could turn the tide and turn Prevention into a profitable title.

Stay tuned.

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