Science Channel has launched a digital-only video brand, Sci2, aiming to reach science-minded millennials with a mix of curated YouTube clips and original content — including some material it wouldn’t find suitable for TV.
In dot-com fashion, the Discovery Communications-owned cabler is taking the approach of trying to build audience first and then monetizing the property. Sci2 is soft-launching without premiere sponsors or preroll advertising capability, although the live feeds Science Channel has licensed for the site will play short ads every 7 minutes (currently spots for insurance carrier Geico and in-house ads for the TV channel).
“It’s really our playground,” said Debbie Myers, executive VP and general manager of Science Channel. “Content is king, interest in science is exploding, and we have the benefit of a brand people love and trust.”
Myers said the idea with Sci2 is to combine original content with the best science-oriented content on the Internet — including videos on YouTube and elsewhere — to gain a following, even though Science Channel won’t get any ad revenue from that material. “Originally when we were brainstorming, we were going to do all original video,” she said. “But we saw there was so much great stuff out there about science. It’s just fragmented and needs to be aggregated in one place.”
The cabler is launching a separate brand from ScienceChannel.com, which exists to serve the audience for the linear TV network, Myers said. On Sci2, “you will see very little mention of Science Channel,” she explained. However, the TV channel will promote Sci2 with on-air spots.
Sci2’s tagline is “Infinitely awesome. Every day” and the site will include content that’s “a little too edgy and racy to be on television,” Myers said. For example: Sci2 includes a 1947 educational film produced by Disney and Kotex called “Menstruation and You.” “It’s kitschy,” Myers said.
Also not suitable for TV: “I Fucking Love Science,” the name of a popular Facebook page created by British science buff Elise Andrew, who will lead a team of curators to populate the Sci2 site with videos.
Last summer, Discovery inked a pact with Andrew, who hosts a short show on Discovery’s online-only TestTube network and is developing a TV show for the Science Channel. On TV, as on the TestTube channel, the cabler will insert asterisks over “fucking” and overdub a sound effect to mask the obscenity — as Discovery’s partnership with I Fucking Love Science, which has 10.2 million Facebook fans, illustrates the divide between what’s OK on TV and what’s OK online.
Sci2 currently features 120 on-demand videos, and eight live feeds and loops. “It’s not a race to put a ton of stuff in there,” Myers said, noting the site will add about 10 videos each day, and will encourage viewers to submit video content for consideration.
Current selections on Sci2 cover a broad range of topics, including how to wash your hair in space, a featurette on active volcanoes, a clip about snoring ducks and new angles of Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull Stratos 2012 space jump. Content also includes two live feeds — NASA TV and live city cams from around the world — and looping streams backed with ambient music of time-lapse, slow-motion and archival science footage, as well as a string of segments from Science Channel’s “How It’s Made.”
The site is available at Sci2.tv and Sci2.com, and Myers plans to extend it to multiple platforms including smartphones, tablets and Internet-enabled TVs. The Sci2 site lets visitors browse videos, search for specific topics or use the “randomizer” feature to discover new content.