HuffPo’s $30M Bet on Video

The video ad market is still heating up, but AOL is betting it will come to a boil very soon. It’s making a major bet with a new streaming service on Huffington Post that will launch in the summer and promises live content 12 hours a day, five days a week and hope to get up to 16 hours a day by 2013.

The service itself is ambitious, but even more so is the investment AOL is putting behind it: $30 million, according to an AOL source. HuffPo plans to create all the video itself. It will dedicate 100 employees to the operation. The scale of the effort would put it on track to be one of the largest producers of original for the Web video around.

“The Huffington Post Streaming Network is going to take the AOL/Huffington Post universe — the stories, the reporters — and that’s going to be the script for the Streaming Network,” said Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, at a launch press conference today at AOL headquarters in New York City.

After a somewhat down year in the AOL universe, the Huffington Post continues to draw traffic and growth. Since the acquisition, the Huffington Post has created 44 new sections (started with 21), three international Huffington Post’s, 54 million comments in 2011 and 1.2 billion pageviews in January 2012 alone, up 47 percent since the merger.

The Streaming Network will be available across desktop, tablet and smartphones. Clickable headlines in the video will lead the user to stories letting people read and watch at the same time. Social interactions are baked in so people can share on their networks. There will also be a video archive to watch on demand.

The Streaming Network will also incorporate existing AOL properties for content. Sites like TechCrunch and Engadget.

The network doesn’t have any advertisers signed up yet for the launch, but AOL clearly hopes to change that. The video ad market is one of the more attractive (and fast-growing) segments of online advertising. HuffPo execs said they plan to offer a variety of ad formats within the videos, including pre-rolls and in-video integrations.

The move is certainly a bold one for AOL, which has come under a storm of criticism on various fronts for a slow-moving turnaround strategy to become a digital media powerhouse. It could also provide a needed infusion of high-quality content into the video ad market.

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