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HuffPost Streaming Network: Game Changer? You Decide

Roy Sekoff, head of HuffPost Streaming Network

Today at the AOL Studios in New York, AOL and HuffPost execs assembled media pros for hors d’oeuvres – including, as one reporter put it, lobster bisque in a shot glass – a one-year anniversary celebration, and an unveiling of the HuffPost Streaming Network.

It was a year ago this week that AOL announced the purchase of Huffington Post. Where has the time gone?

For the HuffPost, time has gone to what seems like a launch every week. In the last year, it rolled out 44 new sections in addition to international expansion into France, Canada and the UK, with Quebec, Spain, and Italy editions forthcoming.

Overkill?

Let AOL CEO Tim Armstrong tell it, they just weren’t waiting for the wind to blow; instead, they were stepping out and taking chances.

Enter its streaming network. It’s headed by HuffPost founding editor, Roy Sekoff, who, regarding the network’s mix of live video, user engagement and off-the-fly programming, said passionately: “People don’t want to be told the news anymore.”

Arianna Huffington commented that the HuffPost Universe, it’s stories, reporters, and community will be the script for the network.

They showed a demo reel, and made it a point to tell us that it was just a demo reel and that we shouldn’t judge it for the quality of the hosts or set. Yes, it looked like a demo reel. Aesthetics aside, here’s what the network is aiming to offer when it launches early summer:

  • 12 hours of live programming, five days a week; will repeat overnight; the network will quickly move to 16 hours in 2013
  • Bi-coastal production – eight hours in New York and four hours in LA; it will also make use of the DC bureau
  • Archived, on-demand video; the network hopes to have 30,000 video clips within the first year
  • Ability to read and watch simultaneously through clickable headlines
  • On-the-fly programming featuring HP and AOL contributors
  • HuffPost/AOL sites will feed the network with content and the network will feed sites with content
  • No segments with set times; topics will be discussed for however long they remain interesting
  • Audience interaction and engagement through segments like Defend Your Comment where readers will be guests on the network to discuss their opinions on articles; You Write the Headline aims to bring readers into the editorial process; The goal is to make users a central part of the show
  • Social stream to integrate Facebook, Twitter, and HuffPost commenting system

Who’s going to manage all of this? HPSN will be a full division of HuffPost Media Group and plans to have at least 100 employees.

Other key executives on the HPSN team include: Gabriel Lewis, who runs AOL studios, acts as a creative partner; Mitch Semel who recently joined from The Onion and Adam Denenberg, former senior VP at Reuters, will oversee technology.

How’s the network going to make money? To start, it is looking for 5-6 “strong partners” to be founding sponsors that are interested in nontraditional advertising models.

While there was much talk from HuffPost execs about how groundbreaking and original the network is, a reporter did bring up the work that the Wall Street Journal is doing with live video and now its dedicated YouTube channel. To this point, Sekoff basically mentioned that HuffPost had more comments in a month than WSJ has had in a year. He also called their live video inconsistent. Ouch.

While he doesn’t see any competition for the network, Sekoff was adamant to say that HPSN will not become a cable network. Instead, its goal is to capture the beautiful, controlled chaos of the internet experience.

Can it be done? Will HPSN be a game changer?

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