AOL unveils a flood of new programming, announces Nielsen will rate

In an effort to keep up with the rising tide of original programming on the Web, AOL has unveiled a slew of new web shows in the works for its AOL On network, including several brand new titles and returning series, for a total of 16 in all. In order to gauge just how well this new arsenal of programming is received – and who’s watching – the company will also be partnering with the ratings gurus at Nielsen in a new beta program.

The font of original shows, detailed in a press release by the former Internet titan yesterday, appears to be an all out gambit for a bigger piece of the massively expanding online audience. The new programming — which joins returning shows from last year such as last Nicole Richie’s #CandidlyNicole and Steve Buscemi’s Park Bench — hits notes across a diverse cross-section of categories. And to sweeten the pot, the company has again enlisted some well-known celebrities to lend their talents in one form or another to the new shows, including James Franco, Zoe Saldana, Mike Epps, and Kevin Nealon, among others.

Here is a highlight of some of the new shows that will hit the online airwaves for the self proclaimed “#1 premium curated video network on the web” in the near future.

AOL’s new shows:

  • Making a Scene With James Franco: the star who can only be described as Franco-esque, sits down with his Hollywood pals to break down scenes of their favorite movies, only to then recreate the scenes themselves in an “irreverent” manner.
  • Kevin Nealon’s Laugh Lessons: Nealon takes his deadpan sarcasm to the new generation, hosting a rotation of comedians who will attempt to teach kids to be as funny as they are — and hilarity, presumably, ensues.
  • My Hero: Zoe Saldana Executive produces this new show, which will feature celebrities (including herself in an episode) paying tribute to a person who changed their lives significantly by rewarding them with an “over-the-top, heartfelt surprise.”
  • That’s Racist: Mike Epps digs to the core of stereotypes and racial bigotry that inspires his own humor, looking at how history can distort the truth in strange and comedic ways.

The new shows are the company’s second attempt to capture the eye of Web viewers, following a similar deluge of mostly reality-based programming which debuted in April of last year, garnering a claimed 150 million views. They will meet a massive wall of competition in the industry which has seen a seemingly endless tide of original online programming, including major productions from established streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, to similar competitors in AOL’s genre like Yahoo.

To help AOL navigate these teeming waters, the company also announced a new partnership with Nielsen, best known for its surveys that monitor traditional TV programming. Nielsen will reportedly help AOL measure its audience ratings for its new shows in a new beta program designed to “provide truly TV-comparable audience measurement across all of AOL’s new series.”

“We are fully committed to producing premium content at scale,” said Ran Harnevo, President of AOL Video. “Premium content is premium content, regardless of screen, delivery, length, or format, and our relationship with Nielsen signifies that understanding. As TV and digital continue to merge into one ecosystem, we believe in one standard form of measurement, and we’re proud to be the first digital client to work with Nielsen to make this vision a reality.”

AOL was reportedly the first “premium publisher” to utilize Nielsen for gross point ratings (GPRs) which are important to advertisers. With the new beta program, the company will be able to get a more detailed look at its audience, that will “reflect the audience reach by age and gender for AOL’s new programming.” That means it will be better able to leverage its resources to put ad money where it will do the most damage, so to speak. AOL will also be “tagging” specific programming for ads using Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings system.

As was reported in a new study yesterday by the IBA, advertisers are flocking to video at an increasing rate, which will only grow in the next 3-5 years. As AOL looks to become more relevant online in a return to its former glory days (remember?), the company will employ its Nielsen knowledge to find out just what hits and what doesn’t.

What do you think? Will you be watching any of the new AOL shows? Let us know in the comments.

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