03.12.2007 08:00 AM
Micro networks emerge on the Internet

First, there were niche networks. Now, with the massive bandwidth available over the public Internet, television programming is moving into micro niches, or, to be exact, micro networks.

Former executives of MTV and Nickelodeon have launched Next New Networks, a New York-based startup that will create highly specialized video Web sites on a wide range of narrow topics. They include subjects as varied as cartoons, car racing, comic books and do-it-yourself fashion.

The founders of Next New Networks include Herb Scannell, the former Nickelodeon executive responsible for "SpongeBob SquarePants" in the 1990s, and Fred Seibert, the first creative director at MTV and the man who made millions of viewers say, "I want my MTV."

The startup has received $8 million in seed capital, in part from the Pilot Group, a media investment firm run by Robert W. Pittman, who created MTV and later overhauled Nickelodeon, the "New York Times" reported. Other investors include Jonathan F. Miller, the former CEO of America Online, as well as some successful venture capital firms.

Next New Networks plans to blend elements of old and new media into a hybrid that revolves around professionally produced, sponsored video segments three to eight minutes in length. Though some programs will solicit user-produced content, outside submissions will be screened before airing.

The "Times" said the company plans to generate a limited amount of programming itself, but will be seeking talented video contributors to supply content on a regular basis.

The venture will begin with six Web sites. Fast Lane Daily (http://fastlanedaily.com) is a daily news program for auto enthusiasts. ThreadBanger (http://threadbanger.com/) offers a five-minute weekly show with MTV-style anchors that discuss the homemade-clothing culture. Two existing video sites — Channel Frederator (http://channelfrederator.com), a weekly program on animation, and VOD Cars (http://vodcars.com/) a curated collection of video clips from the car culture — will also join the network.

The company's founders compared their venture to the early, experimental days of cable. "The nature of big media companies is about incumbent brands and repurposing and refashioning their material for the Web," Scannell said. "We have no incumbent brands. We're a white sheet for creative people."

The network, now with 13 employees, said it has plans to launch more than 100 micro networks over the next five years. In the months to come, it plans to add one to three networks per month.



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