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Microsite Brings Doomsday to Life

Cable networks can take a page from The Weather Channel's book in its use of broadband Internet-enabled microsites to drive interest for its new doomsday-scenario on-air program.

Created by IQ Interactive, the site at www.weather.com/whatif gives users a sneak preview of upcoming episodes of “It Could Happen Tomorrow,” a new show airing Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. Partner-aired preview clips and Weather Channel promos helped generate 1 million page views in the first two weeks the site went live.

“Our viewers are consumers of media across all platforms including broadband, mobile and portable video devices, so we provided content across all these platforms, working with partners to reach them wherever they use media,” said Paul Greenberg, director of consumer marketing at The Weather Channel, Atlanta. “It's really about giving users a chance to see something of interest no matter where they are or their preference for a particular media.”

The site mixes animation, video and natural sounds of a city environment. The three episodes featured online show a hurricane tearing into New York, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake rocking San Francisco and a tornado hitting Dallas.

Each episode aired uses scientific predictions and modeling of natural disasters that could strike major U.S. cities.

The weather.com/whatif site is the second produced recently by IQ Interactive for its client. The Atlanta-based interactive agency in October used live action video to generate awareness for The Weather Channel's new “Weekend View” show. The site used Dao Vu, the show's host.

“That microsite was developed to give consumers a chance to learn a bit more about the talent and the new program for the network,” Mr. Greenberg said. “So we featured video content, photos and worked with IQ Interactive to produce a cool intro section where the talent spoke to the online user.”

IQ Interactive produces similar online work for IBM Corp., National Geographic Channel and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in their customer acquisition initiatives.

Broadband makes such interactive, video-rich sites for major consumer brands possible. A Nielsen//NetRatings study showed that U.S. broadband penetration in February reached 68 percent for all active Internet users. According to the New York market researcher, the number of active at-home broadband users soared from 74.3 million in February 2005 to 95.5 million last month.

The research also found that average PC time per person rises as broadband Internet penetration does: 30 hours, 36 minutes in February versus 25 hours, 33 minutes in the same month in 2003 when only one out of three active online users had broadband.

The Weather Channel already has a strong presence online. The emphasis now is to cross-promote between its on-air and online properties.

“Ultimately, we want to keep our viewers informed and prepared, and the online content gives us another opportunity to do this across platforms they value and use,” Mr. Greenberg said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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