At the top of many concerns for broadcasters is the idea that young viewers aren’t even watching TV during prime time anymore, preferring to go online and watch videos on YouTube.

In response, the networks are making substantial efforts to tap online audiences to grow the ratings for their broadcast offerings, illustrated by three deals announced last week that will partner broadcast and cable networks with prominent L.A.-based YouTube channels.

Two of the deals will funnel bonus footage featuring TV stars to YouTube channels.

In one deal, AMC Networks said it would provide bonus footage from its recap show for zombie hit “The Walking Dead” to a YouTube channel operated by digital media company Nerdist Industries of Hollywood. Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick already hosts the recap show, “Talking Dead.”

Also announced last week was a deal that partners Burbank’s CW Network with digital media company Machinima Inc. of Hollywood.

The two agreed to air a live weekly recap show for CW’s new crime drama, “Cult,” called “ETC After Party: The Cult of Cult,” on Machinima’s ETC YouTube channel. The first webisode aired Feb. 19.

Also last week, Fox Broadcasting Co. announced an investment in the Wigs YouTube channel, based in Culver City. The channel offers scripted programming targeted at female viewers. The agreement covers programming, marketing and distribution, with the idea that Wigs could expand its online programming or potentially develop shows for Fox while giving the network a testing ground for new content.

The deals show how traditional networks are hoping to reach their most passionate fans online, said Drew Baldwin, co-founder of L.A. digital media company Tubefilter.

Such fans are valuable as they will often share content with friends on social networks. For example, CW is encouraging “Cult” viewers to use the “#Cult” hashtag to tweet questions to the recap show’s hosts during the 10 p.m. broadcast of the program. It’s all being done with the hope of driving viewers to the TV broadcasts.

“The niche, hardcore audience is important – the hungry fans who want to engage more,” Baldwin said. “(Networks) are thinking that if they make the engagement on YouTube, it’s going to drive people to the networks.”

Site Rebranding

Popular male lifestyle website CraveOnline.com has decided less is more.

CraveOnline, owned by L.A. company Evolve Media LLC, will opt for a cleaner layout when it relaunches this week.

The site had given its mainly young male visitors nine categories to browse, including film, TV, comics and videos, but that number has been trimmed to five broader categories: entertainment, gaming, music, lifestyle and sports.

Visitors will be greeted Feb. 26 by a video featuring a Crave video host introducing the design.

Part of the idea is to give a cleaner look to the site – an idea endorsed by New York consumer goods giant Colgate-Palmolive’s Speed Stick deodorant brand, which is sponsoring the unveiling as part of an advertising campaign that includes video ads on the site through April. Evolve charges between $150,000 and $300,000 for such campaigns.

CraveOnline, which launched in 2004, had a monthly audience of 3.4 million in January, according to analysis firm comScore Inc. in Reston, Va. The CraveOnline Media publishing group, which includes sites suited to specific interests – such as mixed martial arts fighting – had an audience of 28 million during the month.

The idea is to make the content as widely viewed as possible and therefore more appealing to brands, which often sponsor posts.

“Crave’s new focused categories allow us to integrate a brands message with a passionate audience in a targeted genre, while maximizing reach against other interests men crave,” said Drew Berkowitz, senior vice president of CraveOnline Media, in a statement.

Ratings Renewal

Ryan Seacrest and company are back – Burbank top 40 station KIIS-FM (102.7) rose to No. 1 in the L.A. market radio ratings after the holidays ended, according to research firm Arbitron Inc.

The station had a 5.7 percent share of polled listeners ages 6 and older in January – eclipsing the next best station, adult contemporary KBIG-FM (104.3), which had a 5.4 percent share.

KIIS was overtaken at the end of the year by KOST-FM (103.5), which got a seasonal ratings bump from its popular Christmas music format.

But that holiday wealth was redistributed to other stations in January – all of the L.A. market’s top 10 stations gained listener share during the month, except for KOST, which lost share.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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