AOL (s AOL) has seen a ton of growth in its video properties over the last year or so, and is looking to bolster that part of its business even more, with a slate of web original content designed to capture viewer attention and steal TV ad dollars.
AOL says that its unique viewers have increased 86 percent over the past year. It clocks now more than 43.9 million uniques and 403.6 million video streams per month in the U.S., according to comScore. (s SCOR) That’s a huge jump, but its video story is even more impressive when you look 18 months back. According to AOL Video SVP Ran Harnevo, viewership has grown 600 percent since early 2010. Granted, a lot of that is due to acquisitions that have taken place during that time: the purchase of Harnevo’s 5min, the Huffington Post and (to a lesser extent) TechCrunch have bolstered the number of videos it serves up every day.
Now AOL is looking to capitalize on its growing scale by pushing a slate of 15 web original series designed to capture viewer attention and brand dollars. AOL’s web original content includes a mix of series developed and produced in-house at its studios in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as a few produced by Vuguru, Warner Bros. (s TWX) and Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Productions, among others.
The economics of original web video are finally starting to make sense, because companies like AOL have finally reached the scale necessary to attract real brand dollars, according to Harnevo. “Creating a web series with no audience is a waste of money,” he told us in a phone interview. But the number of viewers watching video on AOL and its partner sites is rapidly approaching the numbers that tune into TV programming. The hope is that, with a huge audience and a slate of quality video programming, AOL will be able to siphon off marketing dollars that would have otherwise gone to TV.
At the core of AOL’s video strategy is massive distribution wherever viewers might want to watch videos. Its slate of web originals will be distributed through the AOL website and Huffington Post media sites, syndicated out to hundreds of partner sites, available through AOL HD connected TV apps and available on mobile devices through HuffPo mobile apps. The company plans to extend that reach even further with more devices and connected apps over coming weeks, Harnevo said.