Have you ever watched one of The Travel Channel’s programs? Perhaps “Flavors of Peru,” “Feast India,” or “Cruising to the Northern Lights”? It may have inspired you to embark on a trip to Cusco, Bombay or Alaska but will the TV station ever see a dime of what would very well be classified as an affiliate fee online? No.
Today, The Travel Channel booked a 7.5 million dollar ticket to the online travel market, by investing that sum in the online travel site Oyster.com. While not the most aesthetically pleasing site, Oyster.com is a commerce meets editorial model much like Jetsetter and the lesser known, but locally rich Jauntsetter. It’s a site of curated information to provide inspiration for wanderlust travelers, along with travel planning help that’s put the traditional travel agent out of business.
The Travel Channel will promote Oyster on television and online in exchange for revenue share on trips booked on the site. And like many brands are trying to do online, the station is positioning itself as a lifestyle choice. The deal provides The Travel Channel with a new revenue stream in addition to advertising and cable subscription fees. And with a small network of 17 staff members plus a vetted network of 25 who visit hotels, take photos and publish reviews, The Travel Channel will surely be adding to the Oyster’s depth of content.
Elie Seidman, co-founder and CEO of Oyster, said he saw the deal as a great way to integrate Oyster’s expertise with The Travel Channel’s level of production. Seidman says the partnership works on a philosophical level, blending curation and comparison that comes with an expert approach to travel.
The deal is an excellent indicator of how television stations can monetize content on the web through strategic partnerships. “I think we’re at the beginning of a very important trend,” says Seidman. “Historically, television has inspired people but it’s never been able to fulfill or actualize on those inspirations. This is the beginning of where TV brands and TV content leads to commercial actualization. Our partnership allows us to use expert content to not just inspire and entertain but to commercialize transactions.”
Oyster already has the transactional capability and the online tools for travel and planning. The hard part is to help customers make great decision and that’s where The Travel Channel comes in. 18 months ago when Scripps purchased The Travel Channel from Cox Communication, the station was valued at $975 million. The $7.5 million is part of the second round of financing for Oyster, which launched in June 2009 and was backed with $8.5 million by Bain Capital Ventures in spring 2008. With strategic goals aligned, it seems that both The Travel Channel and Oyster have found the pearl.