How IFC plans to get people to watch more ‘Portlandia’ online

IFC, the independent film and alternative comedy channel that’s home to shows like “Comedy! Bang! Bang!” and “Portlandia,” wants more people to watch video on its website — especially if they’re accessing it on a mobile device.

To do so, the channel has introduced a redesigned site that puts video front and center, in a way that’s also optimized for handheld devices. Video content, which used to be siloed to a separate section on the site, is now featured at the very top of the homepage. Additional videos, whether it’s full episodes, short TV clips or original Web content is curated in individual pods that users can click on as they scroll down the page. (In addition to video, IFC.com also offers articles, and soon, social content such as GIFs and short Vine and Instagram loops.) The site also has a new “load more” option so users can continue surfing if so inclined.

The idea is to drive not only video starts but also time spent with content on the site, according to Colin Moore, IFC’s vp of digital media and alternative content. “We want people to come to our site and engage with the thing they’re coming for, and then get them to stay for more,” he said.

Making it easy to go from one piece of content to the next is a proven (if obvious) way to get readers to stick around. Earlier this summer, Fox Sports introduced a webpage redesign that put multiple pieces of content in one page. Six weeks into the launch, FoxSports.com reported a 23 percent increase in page views, a 37 percent lift in time spent per social referral and a 14 percent drop in bounce rate.

IFC dot com new 2
The top of the homepage at the new IFC.com.

IFC hopes for a similar result with its redesign. For a cable channel that reaches 62.5 percent of pay-TV households in the U.S. (which shakes out to a little bit more than 72.7 million homes), it does not have a large site audience. Since last September, IFC.com’s monthly uniques across desktop and mobile in the U.S. has hovered around 1 million per month, according to comScore. This September, its audience was 932,000.

Still, IFC said video consumption on IFC.com is growing. For instance, viewership for TV Everywhere content — full episodes as well as a live linear feed of the network that users have to authenticate their pay-TV subscriptions in order to watch — is up 46 percent year-to-date over 2014.

Mobile, which Moore said accounts for upwards of 60 percent of site traffic, is a huge part of IFC.com’s new design. Similar to the Web version, users can easily scroll down from one piece of content to the next on the mobile Web.

While IFC.com is certainly a priority, that doesn’t mean IFC is ignoring social platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The channel has been uploading content directly to both platforms, as well as Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. The type of content ranges from GIFs and super-short videos to trailers, TV clips and original Web series produced under IFC’s Comedy Crib digital arm.

The overall goal, though, remains to bring users to IFC.com — it’s where IFC sells advertising and doesn’t have to split the revenue with a platform, after all.

“We see the value of social platforms: they’re extensions of the brand that we have to capitalize on,” said Moore. “There are such massive audiences thriving in those areas that we have to be there.”

“However, we do want people to come back [to IFC.com] to dive deeper,” he continued. “We have great shows that we want people to experience, so we’ll put content out on social. But all of it is geared toward getting them to come back.”

Looking ahead, IFC has more plans on the owned-and-operated side of its digital business. Moore said the company is working on mobile apps at the moment, which will be focused solely on video.

Image: “Portlandia”

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