AOL Is Betting on a Second Season of Steve Buscemi's 'Park Bench'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- AOL  (AOL) has been investing in short-form video content to capture the rise in mobile video and mobile advertising. While Verizon (VZ) plans to acquire AOL for its automated advertising platform and the people who run it, short-form video such as Steve Buscemi's Park Bench is a business AOL plans to expand.

Park Bench chronicles Buscemi as he sits on a New York City bench talking about life with notable figures from the pop-culture world. On Thursday AOL released a preview of the second season on Roku devices. The season consists of short episodes about 10 minutes in length, offering somewhat of a model for AOL's video offerings.

"We're all seeing that mobile viewership is over half of where people are watching their video content," Nate Hayden, vice president of AOL Originals, said in a phone interview.

"The goal, within the voice of Originals, is to make all sorts of [video] lengths" since "mobile is where everything is heading," Hayden said.

The aim is "to push [video] to as many places as possible," he said, adding that "linear TV is looking to digital to see how we do it." 

Other companies are trying to capitalize on this trend as well. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is the host of a similar show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which is hosted on Sony's (SNE) Crackle. That show, in its sixth season, has garnered more than 100 million views.

Hayden said a partnership with Roku for a preview provided another AOL Originals show, Connected, led to more than a million views in the first week. AOL now has 38 shows listed on its Web site, many in their second seasons.

"It's been fantastic, across the brands, the amount of conversation we have seen," he said, referring to content posted on AOL's Engadget, Tech Crunch and The Huffington Post.

Verizon targeted AOL for its advertising platform known as ONE by AOL. The technology lets advertisers specify their target audiences and then track their ad performance.

Last year the revenue from U.S. Internet advertising came to $49.45 billion, a 16% increase over 2013 levels, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Ad technology combined with prolific short video is a combination that prompted AOL's president, Maureen Sullivan, to refer to her company as more of a TV station than an Internet portal.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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