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N3′s niche nets make sense of online video universe

Former MTV Networks/Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell is applying his channel-building skills to a new medium as CEO of Next New Networks, or N3 for short. Backed by US$8 million in funding from VC firms Spark Capital and Benchmark Europe, the company has rolled out a lead-off batch of six 'micro-television networks' for targeted online communities, some of which count kids and teens amongst their denizens.
April 1, 2007

Former MTV Networks/Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell is applying his channel-building skills to a new medium as CEO of Next New Networks, or N3 for short. Backed by US$8 million in funding from VC firms Spark Capital and Benchmark Europe, the company has rolled out a lead-off batch of six ‘micro-television networks’ for targeted online communities, some of which count kids and teens amongst their denizens.

N3′s plan is to filter online video content for relevance to its superniche audiences, and then package it in branded hubs. ‘Video on the internet is clearly going to change the whole world of media,’ observes Scannell. ‘And in that Wild West, there’s a need for someone to help it make more sense. People want to go to a place where they know what they’re going to get is dependable and reliable, and that’s the nature of our brand.’

The nets will feature quick-hit programs between three and 11 minutes long, refreshed on a daily, weekly or bi-weekly basis. A mash-up of video blogs from the communities’ leading voices, user-generated content, hosted segments and licensed clips all share two common components – they’re authentic to the target, and they don’t break the bank.

To ID new interest groups to go after, the N3 team looks for three things: strong fan-driven activity on the web, an opportunity to provide these enthusiasts with something that enhances their community, and talented folks within their ranks who can help develop programming. Next up this month will be a pet net, which joins channels devoted to the worlds of animation, comic books, cars, self-made fashion and ideas/viewpoints.

The controlled niche nature of N3′s approach should also appeal to marketers, who are torn these days between wanting to ride the online video wave led by the likes of YouTube and MySpace and also wanting more efficiency from their web buys. Although it’s early days still, Scannell says interest from media buyers has been strong, given that N3′s proposition delivers targeted, attentive eyeballs primed to connect with messages that are relevant to their interests. In the coming months, N3 will be experimenting with contextual advertising, spots and contests/promotions to see what sticks, and eventually it will sell demographic packages that cover multiple channels.

Scannell was recruited by N3′s co-founders, animation veteran Fred Siebert and former AOL engineer Emil Rensing, who met during the dotcom era and then came together last year in a podcasting venture.

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