MTV Nets encircle the Web with slate of sites

Set to launch two dozen sites by Q1

NEW YORK -- A new hub for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" headlines a slate of two dozen targeted Web sites that Viacom's MTV Networks will launch by the first quarter as it continues its "vertical" digital strategy.

TheDailyShow.com, which launches in the fourth quarter, will archive the entire video history of the show including headlines, interviews and the "Back in Black" feature. The portal also will present the previous evening's episode in its entirety an hour or two after its broadcast.

The launch comes on the heels of an estimated $75 million deal between Comedy Central and the creators of "South Park" that includes the creation of SouthParkStudios.com (HR 8/28). The site launched this year and will relaunch in the first quarter as part of an unprecedented production deal for the duo, which will see them split online ad revenue from the show with Viacom.

Comedy Central's "The Sarah Silverman Program," MTV's "Engaged and Underage" and Nickelodeon's "iCarly" also will get new sites.

The sites are the latest in MTVN's strategy in the online arena, which establishes individual destinations for shows and related subject matters instead of a centralized site. The new portals will bring the worldwide total of MTVN Web sites to more than 300 destinations by year's end.

"We're accelerating it across the company," said Mika Salmi, president of global digital media at MTVN. "It's worked very well and advertisers like it because they can expand their reach in a very targeted manner."

The sites join a growing list of targeted Web sites that the Viacom property has launched in the past year in conjunction with its TV shows. Other sites include Comedy Central's Indecision2008.com, MTV's YoMomma.TV and SuperSweet16.com and VH1's BestWeekEver.TV.

Traffic across MTVN's properties has increased from 76 million unique visitors in January to 91 million visitors in July, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Brian Graden, president of entertainment for the MTVN Music Group, said that the verticals for VH1's "Best Week Ever" and MTV's "The Real World" have been particularly successful. He said the company has no plans to abandon any of the verticals yet, but he mentioned that it is still early to decide for a lot of them.

"You need four to six months before you say 'I think I've got something,' " Graden said. "For a lot of these, we're aiming for them to outlast the show."

He mentioned that the site for "Super Sweet 16" as an example of a vertical that would still be relevant even if the show were off the air.

Overall, Graden and Salmi said they were happy with the verticals. Salmi said that the strategy of having a large volume of Web properties complements the way most people use the Internet.

"Consumers, on the whole, use search to find what they want on the Web," Salmi said. "By having these verticals, we work well with that type of behavior. We see a lot of time spent and people getting deeper into the experience."

The company also will launch a teen girl gaming site, the N's the-Ngames.com, and a site for video game cheats and hints, WikiCheats.com. This follows MTVN's announcement last month that the network will commit more than $500 million to its digital gaming business during the next two years.

The company also is launching more niche sites ranging from hip-hop dance to stand-up comedy to gay-focused animation. VH1EyeCandy.com, a pop culture site that debuted in beta mode last month, also will fully launch.

MTVN's international group will see a boosted online presence as well. The company will present a Web site for November's MTV Europe Awards and other targeted sites throughout the continent. MTV Japan and Southeast Asia also will get new sites as will the Video Music Awards Latin America.

Also on Thursday, an MTV spokesman confirmed that Viacom's Brand Solutions cross-platform sales unit has been dissolved. Lisa McCarthy, the executive vp at the head of that unit is leaving the company along with her No. 2 in command, senior vp Marc Weinhouse. The remaining nine staffers will be absorbed into MTVN's three sales unit.
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