New York — AOL, the web giant on Tuesday unleashed a new programming hub for online video content at its digital content “NewFront” that will comprise of 14 content channels and centralize all AOL video in one place, especially aimed at luring TV buyers with takes on familiar concepts, such as crime-scene investigations and housewife angst, that have made fortunes for the networks in the last decade.
The announcement is being made on Tuesday at AOL’s 2012 Digital Content NewFront at Highline Stages in New York City, the equivalent of the television upfronts for online video companies. The new hub entitled as “AOL On Network,” which the company believes that 60 million North America consumers will tune into 14 new content channels that will bring together curated videos from the likes of Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum and Adrian Grenier and original programming, including the launch of seven new series.
“AOL is an hallmark company,” CEO Tim Armstrong said in a statement. “With the launch of AOL On we are bringing people closer to the things that matter while helping them unearth and share the stories and information that color their lives.”
According to a brief explanation in advance of AOL’s NewFront, executives claim the idea is to create a “new level of trust” with entertainment consumers who might appreciate the relaxation that comes with being handed a channel grid, but also want to participate in the web’s strong diversity of content.
“Consumers need a destination to unmask videos on the topics that matter when they want them,” explains Ran Harnevo, senior vice president of video for the new initiative. “AOL On is at the crossroads of relevant entertainment and information served in a way that helps consumers stay on top of what is ‘on’ now.”
Now, the company will offer 14 channels around different so-called “passion areas” including entertainment, fashion, and news. The channels will be offered across desktop, tablet, mobile devices and connected TV devices. AOL will introduce channels such as food, business, entertainment, style, tech and other topics, hoping to attract millions of viewers and lure the extra advertising dollars one gets for video content.
Introducing today on AOL On’s tech channel and on the Huffington Post’s crime vertical are “Digital Justice,” a weekly reality series running for five episodes that shows how crime prevention units are deploying digital technology across the country. Other notable unscripted series: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will host a 12-part series where he interviews the likes of former President Bill Clinton and the CEOs of Cisco and Nike.
While making the announcement, AOL also unveiled seven original shows, including two upcoming scripted series, “Fetching” from Amy Harris and “Little Women Big Cars,” both of which were produced by Vuguru, the web studio founded by Michael Eisner through his Tornante Company.
As for additional original content, in part curated by celebrities such as chefs Sam Talbot and Marc Forgione, “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier, and Christine Vachon, who have agreed to appear on-screen talking about their areas of interest and to create “playlists” of video content picked from AOL’s library. An example might be the ubiquitous Heidi Klum (who already has her own AOL site), favorite fashion trends for the summer for the style channel.
On top of other announced Vuguru series “Fetching,” is being slated to debut in June. Written by a “Sex and the City” veteran, it centers on a woman who quits her lawyer job and ends her engagement to open a doggy daycare business.
The event comes as many online giants roll out their content and meet with advertisers over a two-week period. The very existence of the NewFront demonstrates as much, with companies like Yahoo and Hulu are not only bringing TV industry style upfront presentations, but also offering comfort food for ad buyers — concepts like “programming” and “channels.” Ad buyers are being told they can purchase space by passion channel or by any targeted demo.
“The AOL offering can be a compliment or viable alternative to traditional TV-buying strategies, and we are well-positioned not only from a scale perspective, but from a programming perspective to capture TV dollars,” says Harnevo.