Spike.com to eliminate individual brands

Viacom is combining a number of its Web properties into one entity, banking that one site aimed at young males is better than three or four.

Spike.com, as the new brand will be called, is the relaunched destination under which many of the new-media properties in Doug Herzog’s MTV Networks Entertainment Group will be grouped.

Division will thus eliminate or scale back on its individual brands — Spike TV, user-generated vid site iFilm, gamer instant-message service Xfire and vidgame editorial site GameTrailers, though the last two will remain as separate URLs — in favor of the ubersite. Separate topic areas covered by those sites will be broken up on Spike.com by channel.

Move follows a partial integration earlier this year that brought iFilm under the Spike banner.

While Spike.com exists as a URL now, the new site is scheduled to formally launch in the first quarter of 2008.

As part of the move, John Slusser, Santa Monica-based co-founder of GameTrailers, was named to head the Spike.com site as Spike senior veep of digital and video.

Since the main demo for Spike television programming, gaming sites and iFilm is men 18-34, the goal is to target them all at once instead of having each property target them independently, if more specifically.

“There is a lot of overlap in all these audiences. The people who like cars also like girls, they like computers, and they like sports,” Slusser said. “We see a lot of opportunities in reaching them this way.”

Execs said they also would take advantage on the ad-sales side, with marketers able to buy packages for all of Spike.com.

Strategy reflects a decision on the part of cable nets to seek new auds and revenue streams through the combination of what can sometimes be a ragged group of digital properties.

More specifically for Viacom, it is an attempt, after years of making small targeted buys, to combine its online properties into something larger. The strategy is the inverse of that practiced by News Corp., which on the entertainment side essentially made one huge purchase with MySpace and attempted to integrate many of its media properties with it.

Collaboration for Spike also could go the other way, with Web brands in some cases reshaping the cabler’s approach on television. Execs said Tuesday, for example, that Spike’s popular vidgame skein “Game Head” will be renamed “GameTrailers TV.”

Slusser acknowledged that the series will “have a little more of a Web focus,” in part with user-generated content, while still maintaining its goal of supplying news to the vidgame community.

For all the ways the site could be integrated with Spike TV — the net’s UFC programming is a particular area of growth, with execs saying they’d like to turn Spike.com into the online destination for mixed martial arts — officials emphasized that Spike needs to focus on Web-specific content instead of just playing off television shows.

As part of the Spike.com relaunch, then, sites will develop new editorial content in each area, all of it wrapped around video.

And the net said it needs to be careful not to try to create a portal that aims at too many people at once.

“We try to avoid the ‘p word,’ ” said Erik Flannigan, exec veep of digital for Viacom. “We’re not putting up real estate or horoscopes. We need to make sure it’s all about what young males want.”

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