How do digital content creators find revenue for their productions? Certainly pre-rolls and banner ads aren't paying all the bills. The solution is clear, branded entertainment. Aided by big name advertisers, online series are finding high level production values, that can include celebrity talent, and the promotional expertise to raise viewership. "For the third time in five months, Ford's testing branded online video entertainment. The Detroit automotive brand and Schick are sponsoring the second installation of 'Dating Rules,' a Web video series by Alloy Entertainment that premiered on Hulu Wednesday (Aug. 1)." This has been a popular strategy for a number of brands including KFC, Luis Vuitton, and many others.
But this notion of a branded series didn't start on the web. It was a strategy first used on radio and then on television. TV series like the Texaco Star Theater that featured Milton Berle, Kraft Television Theater, and The Jack Benny Program which had a number of different sponsors all getting exclusive advertising within the show including Jello, Lucky Strike, and Chevrolet. It was advertising that paid 100% of the cost of programming, not license fee revenue. But as costs rose, one advertiser couldn't pay all the costs. Ads were no longer a part of the show but made into distinct breaks, outside the show.
And so it is the web's turn to use this staple of advertising, branded entertainment, as a means to support the cost. But if history is a guide, as those costs rise, the web will one day also look at license fees to watch certain online networks and series.