Advertisers have yet to be convinced that a TV station broadcast on the Net will succeed, Lisa Hughes says
A new TV channel launches on Wednesday 22 May. It’s got programmes,
commercials, even a weatherman, but Channel Cyberia is broadcasting over
the Internet, not the ether. You can tune in at
Just like a TV station, it’s commissioning independents to produce
content. ITN has signed up to supply world news; PA Sport is providing a
results service; financial data comes from MAID, the electronic database
company; Paul Gambaccini will present a film review slot and Steve
McFadden (Phil from EastEnders) is fronting a motoring magazine.
The channel controller, Keith Teare, founder and technical director of
the cyber cafe chain, Cyberia, and the Internet access provider,
Easynet, explains: ‘We’re trying to take the best ideas from TV and
transfer them to a new medium, but adding all the things this new medium
offers.’ In other words, interactivity.
Each programme will have an associated bulletin board for messages and a
chat room where viewers with related interests can ‘talk’. Video and
audio will only be made available when the technology works properly.
It’s a bold venture and something new for the Internet. Teare, committed
to not charging viewers, says: ‘Advertising is key to the whole channel.
There’s no other source of revenue, although what constitutes an ad can
be defined very broadly.’
There are three spaces available every hour. Viewers click in one of the
small frames to play an ‘in-site ad’, consisting of one or several
screens, in the main frame. ‘It’s a tiny amount of space,’ Teare admits.
‘But I think you can do things with it, especially if you take all three
slots and use them together.’
He argues that this approach means advertisers won’t have to create and
maintain expensive Web sites. In-site ads, which are delivered direct
from the Channel Cyberia server, are cheap to produce and can mirror
campaigns in other media. Each hourly slot costs pounds 1,000, although
Teare is keen to stress that rates are negotiable. Programme-makers get
a 30 per cent cut of revenue generated during their spot in the schedule
and Teare predicts that within three months, revenue will be running at
pounds 50,000 a month, rising to pounds 2 million a month by the end of
1997. However, he admits that during the six-week preview period the
channel has taken only 10 per cent of what was projected.
Nearly every major agency in London has sent people to Cyberia for a
presentation, Teare claims, and the response has been ‘enthusiastic’.
In fact, reaction seems to have been somewhat more ambivalent. One of
the more positive responses comes from Charlie Dobres, the new-media
client services director at Lowe Howard-Spink, who sees the channel’s
online archive as the innovation that will work best.
By accessing the archive, viewers can choose what they want to watch and
when they want to watch it. They’re notified by e-mail when a programme
they’ve requested is ready to be viewed. To watch it, they simply click
on an embedded link in the e-mail.
Dobres adds: ‘We are looking at advertising on Channel Cyberia, but my
deepest reservation is that you can’t actually have a hotlink.
Basically, you can only have an ad, and that’s a very big minus.’
Phil Swain, an account director at Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper’s new-media
arm, Star Interactive, agrees. Even if an in-site ad is cheap to make
and show, he believes ‘the medium is capable of so much that it’s a
shame to restrict it to a press or poster ad’.
Rob Norman, the managing director of CIA Interactive, is also sceptical:
‘I think it’ll struggle with its rates and it’ll probably start off by
taking a little off a lot of people. As advertisers grow more suspicious
of how effective commercial breaks are, we’ll be looking for ways of
somehow fusing the advertising to the editorial content. A hybrid of the
current model of broadcast sponsorship with the magazine model of
advertorial in an online environment seems to me like a pretty cool way
of approaching that problem.’
Teare is amenable to this concept and is hoping to attract programme
sponsorship. Predictably upbeat, he says that in a year or so ‘Cyberia
will be a media company rather than a cafe chain and Channel Cyberia
will have content that is equal to the best in the world’.
A day in the life of Channel Cyberia
Midnight Financial news
1am World news from ITN
2am Calling Planet Earth - the weather
3am Site of the Day - Internet charts
4am Sport - US sport
5am CyberCinema - Paul Gambaccini’s movie reviews
6am Science 2000 - accessible science
7am Fashion Grab - style guide
8am Site of the Day - Internet charts
9.30am Financial news
10.30am Lap it Up - off-the-wall opinions
11.30am Have your Say - discussion programme
Midday Sport - with an emphasis on participation
1pm World news from ITN
2pm Financial news
3pm Site of the Day - Internet charts
4pm Get a Life - eclectic magazine
5pm Have your Say - discussion programme
6.10pm World news from ITN
7pm Sport -UK and Europe
8pm Calling Planet Earth - the weather
9pm Evolver - body matters
10pm First Byte - a look behind the technology
11pm Sport - world summary