NY-based Heavy.com launched a new video advertising network today, waggishly dubbed the Husky network. Heavy.com co-founder and co-CEO Simon Assaad walked us through it this morning, and it’s an interesting concept: Heavy is selling “skins” — static ads, for, say, Rush Hour 3 — that sit around a video player (see below). Publishers use whatever video player they want, and when a user clicks on the clip, the skins pop up (users can click the skins back off if they’d like). The skins sell for a $12-$14 cpm, and change every 45 seconds or so. So a 2 or 3 minute clip should generate a $30 cpm, in theory. Heavy and the publisher split the revenue 50/50.
Selling skins is a neat way to solve a real problem for publishers — how do you attach ads to videos without scaring users away? But the move is also interesting in the context of Heavy’s business strategy.
The site has a healthy place in the digital lad-mag market — Assaad says they’re running around 16 million uniques worldwide, with about 65% in the U.S. But expanding organically will be hard for Heavy, which has 95 employees, and buying properties at this point could be expensive and risky: Who knows if you’re buying the next College humour, or just a lousy collection of user-generated clips? Husky’s aim is to let Heavy increase its reach without making the bets itself — it’s simply piggybacking on other successful sites. Right now the network is designed to be used by “mid-tail” properties — somewhere between blogs and the likes of IGN — but within six months they’ll add a product for tiny publishers as well.
Meanwhile Heavy will keep trying to build up its own properties without spending too much. In September it will launch Burlysports.com, a network Assaad describes as an “aftermarket for professional sports.” Translation: The network will let Joe Sixpack vent about sports onscreen, without having to pay expensive rights fees to show the games. That model hass worked quite well for sports talk radio, as well as blogs like Gawker’s Deadspin. It will be interesting to see how it works in this format.