We received many worthy entries for our first annual Best of the Web Awards, but the following winners and honorable mentions represent the most outstanding digital initiatives reviewed by our panel of judges. Meanwhile, our first Digital Hot List presents our picks for the most innovative and creative executives helping to drive the cable industry into the digital future. All of those listed below were honored at our Best of the Web Awards breakfast in NYC on Feb 24. We salute you all!

[To download the full PDF of our "Best of the Web" special issue, please click here].

AD/SERIES OF ADS VIDEO

Winner
Time Warner Cable Los Angeles, Movers Campaign

With roughly 10% of the LA DMA moving yearly, Time Warner Cable’s ads showing a moving van with the wordage “Moving?” seem clever. Even stronger was placing the ads at moving-related Websites. The goal was to get signups at $100 per. That was bested; the average was a signup per $92 spent.

Honorable Mentions
     • Comcast/PBS KIDS Sprout, Sprout Please
     • Insight, Community Influencer Website Advertising

    
BEST OVERALL WEBSITES:
CABLE NETWORK

Winners
Discovery Channel, Discovery.com
ESPN, ESPN.com

Our judges fought like caged animals, but in the end, Discovery and ESPN tied for running a couple of the best Websites in cable. Discovery’s international reach and ability to integrate myriad elements pushed page views up 25% in ’08, sporting a 50% ROI and ad rates 25-40% above the industry average. And have you played Cannon Challenge yet? ESPN.com’s 21mln users, meanwhile, spent a whopping 1.1bln minutes at the site, suggesting that ESPN’s increased focus on video (that made up 31% of time spent on the site) is paying off. Big time.

Honorable Mentions
     • AMC, AMCtv.com
     • CNN, CNNPolitics.com
     • Comcast/PBS KIDS Sprout, Sproutonline.com
     • Discovery Communications,
       Discovery’s corporate Website
     • Outdoor Channel, OutdoorChannel.com
     • Starz Entertainment, Starz.com Redesign

BEST OVERALL WEBSITES:
NON-NETWORKS AND REGIONALS

Winner
Motorola, Motorola DOCSIS 3.0 Ultra-Broadband Website

Technology vendors often have a tough time with Websites. Their sites must satisfy tech-savvy engineers, but also MSO exes and the general public. Launched in Jan ’08, Motorola’s DOCSIS 3.0 site accomplishes this difficult task and more. While it’s loaded with technological sections, it also states the business case for DOCSIS and provides a wealth of material that’s easily digestible by the lay person, including links to NCTA and CableLabs materials. Even better, the site is easy to navigate and updated frequently.

Honorable Mentions

     • Cox Communications, The New Cox.com: An Online
       Experience Founded in Strategy & Research
     • YES Network, YESNetwork.com

BLOG

Winner
Insight Communications, Michael’s Insight
Michael Willner, CEO

Yes, CEO blogs often are boring regurgitations of the company line. Not Willner’s blog, which aims beyond Insight subs to, as he blogged recently, “people all around the country who simply are interested in telecommunications issues.” His numerous well-written posts usually comment on policy. But we also love his well-written (ahem) insights about fascinating tech, like Facebook. 

Honorable Mentions
     • AMC, The Prisoner Blog
     • Bravo Media, Andy’s Blog,
       Andy Cohen, svp, production and programming
     • Motorola, Media Experiences to Go

COMMUNITY/SOCIAL NETWORKING

Winner
CNN, iReport

Social networking and community may be all the rage these days, but CNN was really the first cable news outlet to ask its viewers to become… reporters. Invited to submit their spot-news videos, the iReport community has grown into a robust social networking universe of Anderson Cooper wanna-bes snapping pics, taking video, blogging, vlogging… you name it. Citizen journalism lives. And CNN has embraced it with gusto and daring.

Honorable Mentions
     • Outdoor Channel, www.MyOutdoorChannel.com
     • Sci Fi Channel, Eureka Twitter
     • Sci Fi Channel, Ghost Hunters “Join the Hunt”
     • Sundance Channel, The Eco-mmunity

    
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY /EDUCATION

Winner
SiTV, Crash the Parties ’08

SiTV raised brand awareness and fun with its online election initiative that gave two young Latinos a chance to attend and file reports from the political conventions last summer. The effort resulted in 500K online impressions and nearly 100 press mentions. It also boosted the start of SiTV’s “Take The Lead,” its new pro-social initiative.  

Honorable Mentions
     • Cable Positive, CablePositive.org Re-launch
     • Lifetime, Every Woman Counts
     • Sundance Channel, The Green

WEB DESIGN 

Winner
Outdoor Channel

While no site can satisfy everyone, OutdoorChannel.com is making a bid to be the comprehensive stop for outdoor enthusiasts. Besides offering promos for the linear channel, the site includes a broadband video channel and a social networking element. All this, and it’s easy to navigate. From Dec ’07 to  May ’08, site impressions rose 539% and visitors spent 10 minutes/visit.

Honorable Mentions

     • Activity TV
     • AMCtv.com
     • Outdoor Channel, Gear Up and Go
     • Retirement Living
     • Sci Fi Channel, Infinite Oz

E-COMMERCE/MERCHANDISING

Winner
CNN, CNN Shirt

So simple… and yet so creative. Why not turn CNN’s venerable headlines into the latest fashion craze? Well, maybe that’s going a bit far, but CNN.com’s decision to put a t-shirt icon next to the video-related headlines in its latest news section sparked a mini-phenom. Scores of people ordered T-shirts emblazoned with the headline of their choice, video views went up 7.5% after the e-commerce stunt and the campaign helped cement CNN’s reputation as a breaking-news destination.

Honorable Mentions

     • A&E Networks, History Channel Email Newsletters
     • Discovery Communications, Discovery Channel
     • ESPN, ESPN.com
     • Food Network

    
EMAIL NEWSLETTERS

Winner
Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, MVP Club E-Letter
You know an e-letter campaign’s a winner when it grows its audience by 250% before it has even launched. But Comcast’s excellent marketing campaign prior to the e-letter’s Apr 7 debut did just that. By Nov, the database was up another 300%. Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic credits the e-letter with driving higher ratings for original content on its linear net as well. For example, its early “SportsNite” news show was up 600% after the e-letter launched.

Honorable Mentions

     • Comcast, PBS Kids Sprout
     • Gospel Music Channel, GospelMusicChannel.com
     • Starz Entertainment,
       Starz Entertainment Email Newsletters

GAMES

Winner
Cartoon Network, Ben 10 Alien Force Game Creator

When we caught our judges slacking off to further “research” Cartoon Network’s addictive online game, we knew we had a winner. What’s cool is that “Ben 10 Alien Force Game Creator” is essentially user generated. Visitors design their own perilous playing landscapes as they attempt to save the Earth from, uh… little crab-like creatures… or something. Users can share their creations with friends. 

Honorable Mentions
     • AMC, AMCtv.com Games
     • Bravo Media, Top Chef Fantasy Game
     • Fuse, Fuse.tv Games
     • GSN.com, GSN Games
     • Starz Entertainment, Head Case Therapy Session

MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Winner
NBCU, 2008 Beijing Olympics Affiliate Website

What did we do before the Web? To organize Beijing Olympics ad requests and tune-in messages for 200+ affiliates, NBCU provided an affiliate site with customizable, turnkey promotional tools and marketing materials. The site also allowed NBCU to track activity by company, DMA and campaign on an up-to-the-minute basis. That’s what we call using the Web to leverage assets and keep affiliates happy.

Honorable Mentions
     • CNN, Black in America
     • Comcast Interactive Media, Fancast
     • Outdoor Channel, Gear Up and Go

MOBILE APPLICATION

Winner
Discovery Digital Media, Mobile Websites

You must be where your audience is. That led Discovery to build six sites for mobile device users. In addition to program schedules, the sites feature news stories, reminders for favorite shows, short-form video from Discovery Nets’ most popular series and blog feeds. The sites are enjoying triple-digit-percentage growth year-to-date. That’s called finding your audiences and getting them the content they want—where they want it.

Honorable Mentions
     • Discovery Cannon Challenge
     • ESPN MVP service for Verizon Wireless
     • i.TV application for iPhone

 
ORIGINAL CONTENT

Winner
Mayne Street, ESPN

ESPN took its time getting involved in scripted Web video series. The wait was worth it. The format allowed Bristol to provide more exposure for anchor Kenny Mayne, a master of deadpan wit. In 3-minute vignettes, Mayne plays a George Costanza-ish version of himself with laughs aplenty (or is that Kenny?). He’s a natural, and it shows through in every clip.

Honorable Mentions

     • AMC, SciFi Department
     • Discovery Digital Media
       Deadliest Catch: The Real Dutch
     • Lifetime Networks, Total Beauty Makeover
     • Sci Fi Channel, Ghost Hunters LIVE!
 
PR CAMPAIGN

Winner
Starz Entertainment,
Starz Entertainment Digital Outreach

Bloggers began as renegades but are being pulled into the mainstream. One piece of evidence is Starz’ effort to engage potential new subscribers by influencing important bloggers and by extension their readers. Starz contacted bloggers whose readers matched demos for its original shows. Its reps made personal contact with bloggers, providing video clips and full episodes, widgets, swag and exclusive interviews. The outreach garnered 33mln incremental PR impressions across targeted blogger/partner sites.

Honorable Mentions
     • Discovery Communications,
       Animal Planet Whale Wars Digital Campaign
     • Disney, U Rock the Summer on Disney.com contest
     • IFC, The IFC Media Project

SUPPLEMENTAL WEB CONTENT

Winner
Discovery Communications
Discovery.com – When We Left the Earth: The NASA Missions Show Site

Discovery’s 6-part series was impressive enough, but the interactivity and deeper dive of the companion Website was the perfect icing on a freeze-dried, astronaut-ready cake. Interactivity ranged from “Eyes on the Universe,” in which users could study the stars, to the “NASA Video Vault,” an incredible collection of rarely-seen mission videos from Apollo to the Space Shuttle. Visitors could even share their own “I-was-there-when” stories about historic space missions.

Honorable Mentions

     • AMC, The Prisoner
     • Comcast/PBS KIDS Sprout, The Sunny Side Up Show
     • Insight Communications, SportsOnInsight.com
     • World Wrestling Entertainment,
       WWE Summer Slam 2008 Microsite

VIDEO: OVERALL USE OF VIDEO

Winner
ESPN, ESPN.com

Averaging 120mln video views per month, ESPN.com has taken online video to the next level. ESPN.com users now spend 31% of their time watching video, and ESPN’s broadband video offshoot ESPN360.com delivers more than 3000 live sports events every year. The net’s aggressive pursuit of partnerships with distributors, including AT&T and Verizon, has helped it triple its distribution in just the last 2 years. Meanwhile, ESPN Mobile TV brings video to mobile devices.

Honorable Mentions
     • AMC, AMCtv.com
     • Comcast/eCity Interactive/Center City Film & Video,
       ActivityTV.com
     • Discovery Communications,
       Discovery.com, MythBusters
     • WE tv, WEtv.com

[To download the full PDF of our "Best of the Web" special issue, please click here].

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