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Snowball aims at young male audience with Net TV

The online youth network is joining the broadband race, offering new content for Web surfers with high-speed Internet connections.

    Online youth network Snowball.com is joining the broadband race, offering new content for Web surfers with high-speed Internet connections.

    The company today launched a new channel on its IGN.com Web site, IGNtv, which targets the "Generation I" audience of young male viewers between the ages of 13 and 33.

    IGNtv's broadband programming will feature 15 original segments each week, according to the company. The segments will include movie trailers, game guides and consumer electronics reviews. Snowball said it will introduce customized broadband content across new and existing networks later this year.

    Broadband strategies have so far proven risky. Other companies announcing ambitious plans to provide content geared for high-speed connections such as cable and digital subscriber lines (DSL) have backed off, citing the lack of infrastructure support.

    According to analyst Peter Clemente of customer relations firm Cyber Dialogue, only 6 percent of the online population is accessing the Internet at a high speed.

    "There's a tremendous opportunity to satisfy consumers' interest in film and film-related content, but the technology is a barrier," Clemente said. "Music is exploding at a much greater pace than film because it takes significantly less time to download a music file than a film."

    IGN.com executives said that 21 percent of their audience connects to the Net with high-speed connections, giving it the potential for a healthy broadband bump. In addition, they said, it makes sense to target Web surfers with high-speed connections because they offer a better demographic for advertisers, with more money on average than people with low-speed dial-up modems.

    "We are massively product focused," said Simon Whitcombe, IGN vice president and network director. "We focus on getting simple and effective guides on how people spend their time and how they spend their cash."

    Approximately 3.9 million Web surfers visited IGN's Web site in March, compared with 6.6 million for Snowball.com, according to Media Metrix.

    IGN parent Snowball went public in December, but investors so far have reacted unenthusiastically in a weak market for technology stocks in general. Shares this afternoon were trading at $4.88, off their high of more than $15 on their first day of trading.

    Although it may still be too soon for Web sites to pursue credible broadband strategies, that hasn't stopped many from trying.

    Other sites in the broadband content race include Excite@Home, which unveiled its broadband push in March. Similarly, America Online is developing AOL Plus in conjunction with partnerships with major local phone companies such as SBC Communications and Bell Atlantic, though development has progressed slowly.

    In addition, NBC Internet is developing a broadband entertainment portal called NBCi.com and owns a stake in Snap, a smaller, general-interest portal that offers a high-speed version called Snap Cyclone.

    CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, owns a stake in NBCi. Snap was a CNET spinoff.