November 19, 2004 5:39 PM PST
I want my RipeTV?
Ripe Digital Entertainment, based in Los Angeles, said this week that it will launch its video-on-demand service, called RipeTV, on Jan. 17. In its first major deal, the company said it will unveil its VOD channel the same day to Comcast's more than 8.5 million digital cable subscribers and via the cable provider's Web site.
Like the music cable channel MTV, Ripe wants to turn viewers on to short, 3- to 5-minute videos. But instead of music, Ripe will cast a wide net of entertainment programming to males ages 18 to 34, such as big surf riding, "Jackass"-like stunts and beauty contests.
It will also aim to appeal to the digital generation--whose members are growing increasingly accustomed to getting content how and when they want it--with more than 1,500 hours of on-demand programming. Comcast subscribers will be able to watch RipeTV's free videos anytime with fast-forwarding, pause and rewinding features.
"We're taking some traditional media shows, short-form animation, (and other original programming), and re-editing them for on-demand TV. Then we've baked the ads into and around the programming," said Ripe CEO Ryan Magnussen, who founded the interactive ad and branding company Zentropy Partners during the Internet heyday.
Internet-enabled television is a burgeoning market, with several content and technology companies competing for a starring role. Akimbo Systems and Dave Networks, among others, are aspiring to build entirely new platforms for digital on-demand entertainment that will give people unprecedented access to niche content they want, when they want it.
Other content companies are moving to ensure that their Internet video and Web sites are compatible with televisions hooked up to convergence devices, such as Microsoft's Media Center PC. That way, people can view Internet programming via the television.
But analysts caution that a lot of niche content will get lost in the shuffle in the saturated cable television market. For this reason, it might be difficult to sell advertising against a thin audience.
"It's tough to identify a viable niche of people to cater to or create a mass-market service," said Aditya Kishore, an analyst at The Yankee Group.
Still, companies such as Ripe believe that advertisers will find it compelling that consumers can't skip the ads in their on-demand programming, especially if it were to catch on in the way some short films such as the Bush-Kerry parody JibJab have on the Internet.
Ripe has yet to announce advertisers for its upcoming shows, but Magnussen said it has had stellar demand. Its advertisers will be able to pick from several different forms, including animation, banners, tickers and interactive messages that overlay the programs.
The privately held company has licensed 95 percent of the programming for the network. And eventually, if the service takes off, the company wants to solicit the audience to create programs for RipeTV. "We want to get to the point where the audience programs the content," Magnussen said, "so we're the eBay of TV networks."