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AOL turns to Ellen DeGeneres

Struggling Internet portal and ad network AOL is turning to The Ellen DeGeneres Show to boost traffic and bring its original content to a wider audience: the company has just announced a deal that will see the show’s Web site promoting AOL.com content “on a daily basis.” The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s key demographic is women ages 25 to 54, which AOL sees as key to growing its online audience—and AOL is offering a ton of original content and services designed to appeal to those viewers.

“We are delighted to announce a new partnership with Ellen, Telepictures, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” said AOL Media and Studios president David Eun, in a statement. “This partnership with Ellen is an excellent example of AOL’s commitment to bringing premium content to our audience through strategic partnerships that complement the broad, engaging original content we have across AOL’s network of sites.”

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is second only to Oprah among women aged 25 to 54; the show will be starting its eighth season next week.

Under the deal, videos from the EllenTV site will be distributed across the AOL video networking, and Telepictures and AOL will collaborate on creating original “programming” and digital sales packages tied to special events, seasonal themes, and holidays like Halloween and Mother’s Day. AOL also hopes to tie in with Ellen’s followings on Twitter and Facebook, where she claims more than 10 million followers.

The move is a risky one for AOL: historically, online media companies rarely have successful partnerships with traditional media, with the primary exceptions being online media operations created by big media, such as Hulu. But AOL clearly needs to do something significant to raise its profile to users and, hence, advertisers: AOL’s first quarter earnings were down 23 percent from the previous year, and its second quarter earnings were down 26 percent compared to 2009.

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