News surfaced last month that Vevo, the Hulu-for-music-videos service, would be launching a TV network. The YouTube-to-boob-tube rumor begged a series of questions: Can music videos drive an entire TV channel? Are music videos even popular any longer? Or would Vevo have to expand its programming as did MTV and VH1?
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff made it clear: We're not trying to be MTV. First, he addressed the news of Vevo TV.
"That's not correct—the New York Post got that wrong," Caraeff explained, adding that Vevo will be seen on televisions through partnerships with services such as Google TV. The experience will be similar to watching a TV channel, but Vevo will still live on the Internet and only be accessible via Web-connected TVs.
In that sense, Vevo is looking to expand its reach online. Thanks to its syndication on YouTube and AOL, traffic has grown significantly. Mobile apps on the iPhone and iPad have been downloaded around 3 million times, and are rapidly becoming a mainstream platform. (Kanye West's recent short film "Runaway" brought 2.1 million views on Vevo—100,000 from the mobile space.) And advertisers are rolling in: around 200 work with the company, from American Express' sponsorship of live concerts to Vitamin Water's investment in original programming.
Caraeff says the plan is to expand this reach—through Google TV, Apple TV, and soon Android-powered devices—but not necessarily to expand its programming, at least beyond music.
"We're very true to music," says Caraeff. "We're not interested in abandoning music, or embracing lifestyle or reality programming. That's something we're very conscious of: There's a thin line and a slippery slope between the two."
"If you don't keep your eye on music, then all of a sudden you're making Jersey Shore," he continues. "There's nothing wrong with Jersey Shore—I'm sure it's very good for MTV's business—but that's not what we want to do."
Of course, if Vevo hopes to build a network on music, it needs content. Are music videos even a viable stream to rely on, when the record industry is struggling so much? Labels are spending less and less to produce videos due to cutbacks and a vague ROI.
"Music videos used to be something that drove the sales of record music," explains Caraeff. "Where we are today, it's primarily a commercial and promotional good—it's a way to generate revenue, it's a way to work with brands and sponsors, it's a way to spread awareness for your music."
"People shouldn't spend money to make videos if they can't realize a turn on that investment. But as we start to build the Vevo business, we're seeing a renewed focus on music videos."