Spike TV gambles on 'made-for-PC' motorcycle, demo car, 'geek' shows

New York (NY) - It's an age-old question: Would PC users be willing to invest their time to download a media portal just for the purchase of watching shows produced by the portal's producers...if those shows didn't contain porn? What the Spike TV unit of MTV Networks is banking on is the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, viewers will be willing to watch videos of dirt track, motocross, and demolition car racing - along with reality shows based around the characters involved in those sports - all in breathtaking low-definition.

One of the self-described geeks takes Spike online viewers someplace they've never gone before: inside an electronics store!

The move is the latest step by MTV Networks to gauge interest among viewers in the idea of their programs being distributed digitally without the aid of Itunes or a video download service. While you can't download Spike TV programming to own it, conceivably, viewers may not want or need to own episodes of certain continuing series, if viewers are only interested in the latest episode available at the present time. If it works, MTV could find itself with a new revenue stream for advertisers that bypasses cable services altogether, reaching directly to the viewer through the Web.

"We want the site to be not just an extension of what's on air, but a digital expression of what Spike is about: action," said Spike's vice president for digital media, Steve Farrell, in a statement this morning. To exemplify this new spirit of action and adventure, one of the site's premiere programs, called "Geek Ray Vision," features two guys standing around an electronics store asking the proprietor about cool-looking spy gadgets, such as tape recorders. During one action-filled segment, one of the self-designated geek hosts tries to recall whether James Bond's boss was "M" or "Q."

In fairness, there are more action-filled clips available, such as 30-second excerpts from interviews with actual models who work with one of the wrestling entertainment venues featured on Spike TV. In one such clip, we hear Courtney (last name not provided) admit a long-held secret: "I love to eat meat. I'm a big...meat...eater."

Rattlesnake Raceway, one of Spike's online reality shows

Then Rattlesnake Raceway spends five minutes or so with the racers and engineers who live and work at the oldest dirt track in Nevada. It's a legitimate documentary with some interesting people in it, seen in bits and pieces, although Spike's notorious quick-cut style of editing sometimes wreaks havoc with the Macromedia Flash player, which at times can show the upper half of one cut and the lower half of another. (If we could get that trick to work with Courtney and, say, Jill, there may be value in it after all.)

Though Spike's online player doesn't have access to a wealth of content just yet, it's worth considering whether, as the content library evolves, advertisers might find value in MTV giving viewers the ability to choose which five-minute segments they want to see, from a vast library of material, in-between ads. MTV is known and appreciated for its ability to provide short-form programming, which may translate better to a Web context than long episodes of dramatic series ("long" meaning "beyond 15 minutes").

Of course, the audience will be limited to the sort likely to view something called "Spike's Hottest Bartenders" (the actual name of a forthcoming PC-only series), but you can't fault the company for knowing how to target its core demographic: urban, male, horsepower-loving, bar-hopping, trivia-challenged meat eaters.