Spike looks for 'more than the girl next door'

Web franchise invites viewers to vote on new spokesperson

MTV Networks' Spike.com on Aug. 17 will roll out "Girls of Spike: The Ultimate 50," an original Web franchise that will invite fans to vote on 50 women competing to be the next on-air spokesperson for Spike TV.

Voting for "Girls of Spike," which will feature a collection of videos snippets and profiles of women selected by the network's producers who possess both TV potential and a certain Spike quality, will continue through the end of September. On Oct. 1, the 10 most popular candidates will be showcased in a special airing on Spike TV, from which a final winner will be selected.

"The Spike girl is different," said Jon Slusser
, senior vp of Spike Digital Entertainment. "Of course she's cute and attractive. But she's also the kind of girl that you meet and say, 'Wow, you can rebuild a motorcycle? Wow, you play "World or Warcraft"?' She's more than the girl next door."

This multifaceted girl will eventually become a regular fixture on Spike TV, appearing during specials and as a correspondent at red-carpet-type Spike events, Slusser said.

"Girls of Spike" is the latest example of an original Web production that will be used both as an "appointment streaming" opportunity for Spike.com while also fueling the linear TV product. That's been the goal since Spike.com was relaunched roughly 18 months ago after folding in the MTVN video acquisition iFilm.com. Since that time, the site's audience has climbed from about 1 million unique users to 4.4 million unique users, per comScore -- while occasionally topping several born-on-the-Web guy-aimed sites like Break.com and Heavy.com against the key men 18-34 demographic.

Slusser credits the network's efforts at create an original editorial voice for Spike.com, and a reason for existing other than servicing the TV channel.

"So many TV sites are promotional sites that provide scheduling and tune in information, and maybe some programming extras," he said. "We really wanted this to be a destination for guys. And it's still Spike, but you need to communicate with these guys differently online."

One way to do that has been programming that carries a Web aesthetic. A good example of that is "Food Dude," an original Spike.com franchise launched less than a year ago. The show consists of short video episodes featuring improv comedian/ guy-oriented cook Will Greenberg providing instruction on preparing dishes such as Chili Con Corndog and Hawaiian cheesecake. The show's online episodes average roughly 100,000 views, and the concept has proven popular enough to graduate "Dude" to several on-air appearances.

Ideally, "Food Dude" brings Spike TV some new viewers. "Some of our online fans are not necessarily viewers of the network," Slusser said. "So both media helps build the other."