By Sunshine Mugrabi
To the uninitiated, it looks like three 20-something geeks sitting on a couch talking about comic books. But iFanboy could also be a sign of how online TV plans to turn clicks into dollars.
The weekly show was added in January to the lineup of Revision3, the San Francisco-based Internet TV network started by Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson, the co-founders of news bookmarking site Digg. It features three diehard comics fiends whose idea of a passionate argument is deciding on the top five comic books of all time. Not exactly Emmy-winning stuff.
No matter. David Prager, COO of Revision3, says iFanboy appeals to the same demographic that tunes in every week to its No. 1 downloaded show, Diggnation, in which geeks with laptops and beers talk tech. iFanboy merely takes the nerdiness to the next level. “There’s a huge subset of [our] audience that is also interested in comic books,” says Mr. Prager.
Revision3, which is backed by about $1 million in angel funding, officially launched last September. In a throwback to 1950s TV, advertisers sponsor an entire show, and the hosts pitch the sponsor’s products throughout. Advertisers include Sony, Microsoft, and GoDaddy, a site-hosting service which sponsors iFanboy. This advertising model could represent the future for Internet entertainment, which must figure out how not to alienate its audience with annoying advertising “pre-rolls.” Even YouTube, which is starting to flirt with pre-roll ads, is trying to find a better way.
“This is the challenge with any of these ad-supported models,” says Gartner analyst Michael McGuire. Advertising that is too generic, he adds, will be a turn-off to the kind of audiences that download Internet entertainment on a regular basis.
Revision3 produces 12 programs and claims to get 1.5 million downloads per month.Most, but not all, are on techy topics, though it also has shows on cooking and music. The programs, which tend to run about 15 to 30 minutes, can also be downloaded from the Revision3 site, or from iTunes. Diggnation garners 250,000 downloads per episode, more viewership than many cable shows.
The bigger question for Revision3 is not which comic book is the best, but whether online video will ever come up with a way to be profitable.