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Will video drive AOL's comeback?

At Advertising Week, AOL Video announced they would be developing 15 original web series, including one with celeb Jennifer Lopez. The saga of AOL continues to stay interesting and it has nothing to do with their acquisition of TechCrunch and Huffington Post. Last fall AOL bought Israeli startup 5min.com for $65 million. A year later, the startup is now running AOL Video and has implemented their successful strategy under the leadership of Ran Harnevo (whose education section on LinkedIn reads, “didn’t graduate but had some fun digging in”), 5min CEO/founder and now SVP of Aol Video. Harnevo’s mission – to define and create a new kind of primetime for online video with premium content that will start driving advertisers away from the TV.

The AOL brand’s comeback might happen with video

The AOL name often gets scoffed at by media geeks as the email address your mother or father won’t get rid of. Harnevo doesn’t let those sentiments discourage his passion for his new company for a second. “Look outside the media world,” he directs. “AOL Video has 40 million viewers a month and a 600% growth on the home page in the last month.” He’s not concerned about the nostalgic associations with Aol brand, but the reach his robust library of video content has across the web. “What [TV] network can claim those numbers,” he excitedly exclaims.

AOL Video’s social network

When asked what their main social strategy is with their video library, his answer – The Huffington Post. “Huffington Post has created the most interesting social platform on the web. The number of comments, tweets, likes and social interactions is unprecedented,” he said. He says they will continue to experiment with putting 5min video on Huffington Post. He described the four different ways to socialize with video (phone, tablet, web monitors and TV) and how each has it’s “own experience”.

Why premium online video makes the most sense for advertisers

Harnevo broke down the different options for advertisers on online video.

-”TV extensions” – like Hulu, he said are “not scalable,” because the main business is still on the mounted screen.

-”Platform USG business” – meaning curating user-generated content, isn’t ideal he explains, because “no one can promise you that dynamically your ad wouldn’t be attached,” to bad content.

-”Third in between market” – Harnevo’s solution, a “mix of TV and web originals, premium by nature but not HBO, great engagement, brand safety”

Creating a primetime equivalent for online video

Harnevo’s vision of online primetime isn’t a specific time of day but a combination of being at the right place at the right time, all the time, with the best possible content. “Our job is to educate marketers and advertisers about premium online content,” Harnevo proclaims. He isn’t just referring to the 15 originals. The reason they’ve decided to experiment with originals now is because they have so much useful data on their viewers that he feels they owe it to them to take their premium content to the next level. Their main arsenal of premium video is actually their video library of 1,000 verified content creators, which “includes tens of thousands of videos across 20 categories and 140 subcategories, which are professionally produced and brand-safe.” Their “instructional, knowledge and lifestyle” library even recently rolled out a simple but neat editors’ room, so publishers and bloggers can watch videos without ads before they embed.

Tim Armstrong seems to be allowing a startup to lead the company head first into the unconquered world of online video – let’s hope he continues to let them drive as they try to tap into TV budgets.

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