Tuesday, July 25, 2006

CMT Unveils Broadband Video Site

CMT Unveils Broadband Video Site
by Mark Walsh, Tuesday, Jul 25, 2006 6:00 AM ET
MTV NETWORKS' COUNTRY MUSIC TELEVISION channel, CMT, joined the broadband stampede Monday, kicking off a new entertainment Web site that combines unaired TV footage, original material and music videos in hopes of becoming a virtual Nashville for country music fans.

The new site, CMT Loaded, offers five main video-heavy channels: news, music, TV, movies, and highlights from across the network. Loaded will draw heavily on new or additional material from CMT Network shows to provide behind-the-scenes clips, exclusive performance footage and artist interviews. One program, for instance, features unaired auditions from CMT's "Coyote Ugly: I Wanna Be a Coyote" reality TV show. Exploiting the demand for user-generated content, the site will also offer access to unseen videos from the network's "Country Fried Home Videos" show.

"It's that whole YouTube situation--we definitely want to get in on that," said Lewis Bogach, vice president of programming and production at CMT, referring to the wildly popular video-sharing site. In starting a broadband video site to complement its cable network, CMT is also following the model of sister Viacom-owned networks MTV, with Overdrive, and VH-1's Vspot. Some CMT video is already available through Urge, MTV's download site.

Bogach said that Loaded is also creating original shows such as "B Sides," that rely on new and existing material to produce short-form videos ranging from "Video Babes" to "Skynyrd: The Beginnings." "It's a new, branded show that's totally unique to Loaded," said Bogach. More original programming is expected to be introduced in the coming months. To help cross-promote the new site and the cable network, the new vehicle of CMT star Jeff Foxworthy, "Foxworthy's Night Out," will premier exclusively on Loaded on Sept. 1.

And with a free, ad-based model, Loaded is hoping to lasso new and existing CMT advertisers. Signed on as charter sponsor for the site in the first month is AT&T Blue Room, the music video site the phone giant started in 2005. The AT&T ads precede video streams throughout the site and AT&T exclusively sponsors Studio 333 Sessions, which features "un-plugged" performances by upcoming and established country artists. Other initial advertisers include Nationwide, Pfizer and Fruit-of-the Loom.

"Were wrapping Loaded into all our upfront pitches so it's a real integrated effort to sell on-air and online like never before," said Martin Clayton, vice president of digital media for CMT. Because of the tight connection between Loaded and its network parent, he expects CMT advertisers such as Chevrolet and Procter & Gamble to buy space on the new site. Prior to the launch of Loaded, CMT.com drew 2.3 million unique visitors in June--up from 1.6 million a year ago, according to comScore Networks.

Clayton said CMT's online users skew slightly younger than its TV audience, which has a median age of 40--but both are split about evenly between men and women. When it comes to any advertiser skittishness about the Wild West of broadband media, Clayton isn't overly concerned. "Our user-generated stuff isn't going to be that edgy," he said.

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