By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY writer
Don't touch that mouse. Online news and entertainment video is
booming, says market tracker Forrester Research, with video traffic
doubling every six to eight months on average at websites that offer
sight, sound and motion.
America Online next month introduces a celebrity journalism series
that will offer video-on-demand stories about Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise
and other stars. Yahoo recently hired independent journalist Kevin
Sites to file video news reports from Iraq and other war zones. World
Wrestling Entertainment just moved two long-running shows from cable
TV -- WWEHeat and WWEVelocity -- to its wwe.com site.
"There seems to be no way to quench people's thirst for online video
programming," says Chris Chambers, WWE senior vice president.
A few weeks ago, the first hour of WWE's Friday Night SmackDown series
on UPN was pre-empted by Hurricane Katrina coverage, so WWE put the
show on its website. The show averages 5 million viewers weekly, and
WWE thought it might attract 250,000 viewers online. Instead, there
"That was with no promotion, without people knowing that the show was
there," Chambers says.
In the dot-com bubble era, there were lots of grand plans for the
Internet to replace television as the viewing medium of choice. But
slow Internet connections made the shows practically impossible to
watch, and advertising support wasn't there.
Now, Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff says, "The viewers are there, in a
big way, and so are the advertisers." Online advertising is expected
to grow to $26 billion by 2010, from $14.7 billion, Forrester says.
"I can envision a day when we'll all be watching our flat-panel TVs
and will Google the TV to figure out what to watch," says Sarah Kim, a
vice president at advertising agency AvenueA/Razorfish.
Indeed, Internet giants Google, Yahoo and America Online all are
investing heavily in video.
Google last week presented the pilot episode of UPN's Chris Rock
series, Everybody Hates Chris, on its Google Video project.
Google Video director Jennifer Feikin says the online airing was
clearly promotional, designed to get people to tune into UPN, but she
says the next phase of Google Video will be about offering shows on
demand, for a fee. "Let's say I missed an entire season of a TV show
and now would like to catch up. There may be an opportunity for a TV
producer to say, 'Let's put it on Google, and receive a payment in
Yahoo has big plans to expand, under the leadership of former ABC
programming chief Lloyd Braun. He was hired last year to oversee
Yahoo's original programming. Kevin Sitesin the Hot Zone, which made
its debut last month, is the first original effort from his team.
Furthest along is Time Warner unit AOL, which used video as the
cornerstone of its re-launch as a free Web portal in June. AOL
recently began two original, online reality series -- The Biz and
Project Freshman -- and has more in the works. AOL will begin webcasting
classic TV shows intact in the coming months.
Video is an integral part of AOL's new look. AOL is bankrolling new
shows because, "We wanted to make a statement," says Jim Bankoff, AOL
executive vice president. "The new AOL is optimized for today's
high-speed (Internet) user."
Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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