With Nielsen refusing to provide ratings for the channel, according to its CEO, Maggio said he's had to explore other options, given the difficulty in charging advertisers without ratings. He hoped to offer ratings through one of his other ventures, erinMedia, a measurement company that planned to use set-top box data. But a competitive Nielsen product derailed those efforts, he said. A Nielsen representative would not comment.
"How do you run a TV network when you can't charge for commercials?" Maggio asked. "And that is our challenge right now."
It also explains the emphasis on streaming the network via broadband, which Maggio spins as "a strategic decision" that's preferable because it can instantly reach 55 million people--or the current number of Americans with high-speed Internet access. The alternative is going through the trials of building traditional distribution by the thousands through a series of deals with cable and satellite operators. The Web also supplies more accurate user-tracking and measurement capabilities, Maggio said, which will provide the path to "monetize" the venture.
So far, the network--which has been beset by several delays and is still only streamed in test mode for two hours each evening with "sample" commercials--is available to 500,000 TV customers in Tampa, Fla. via Bright House networks, along with the Internet streaming. It is, however, the subject of at least one billboard along a busy Tampa freeway in the country's 12th-largest DMA.
In fairness, Maggio had always hoped to employ a simulcast between TV and the Web. Now, he's going full-throttle with what is referred to as an Internetwork.
The raison d'etre for ReacTV, whose Web locale is www.77.tv (in reference to the linear channel number it occupies in Tampa, and a potential allure to gamers who look for "lucky sevens") is to essentially offer advertisers what could be the ultimate gauge of engagement: Insight into awareness and reactions to spots through a series of viewer questions.
The network's content is a mix of trivia and other interactive games, where viewers can win what's billed as "potentially millions of dollars in prizes." But every 10 minutes bring two minutes of spots (usually four :30s), where viewers can also earn compensation by answering questions about their contents. Essentially, it's a sort of field test, where the testers don't know about it. ReacTV has also promised to charge advertisers, based on the number of people who actually watch their spots.
To date, prizes haven't materialized, with Maggio now forecasting an August launch. He's also adjusting some plans for the gaming content, and plans to add a host for the shows, tossing out the term the "next Ryan Seacrest" as an example.
The current testing involves a panel of some 4,600 unpaid individuals who variously log in during the two hours a day when the programming is now available, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays EST (both on TV in Tampa and the Web).
In a bid to attract Madison Avenue, potential advertisers can log in through a special code several hours a day to view the system when it's unavailable to the public.