Vizio’s first branded program: A lifestyle show, but also an ad

Smart TV maker Vizio has launched its first exclusive branded content program in partnership with the sports betting service BetMGM that the company hopes will resonate with foodies and sports lovers alike.

The show, "3 Pointers," is hosted by Casey Webb of the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" and offers food and entertainment tips to improve the sports-viewing experience.

The program, which debuts on Friday, is timed to debut around the start of the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament, one of the most-watch sporting events in the United States. Streamers will be able to watch the four-part, short form series from an advertisement on the home screen of Vizio's streaming platform and from Vizio's free, ad-supported streaming service (FAST) WatchFree+.

The show is the latest example of a streaming hardware maker licensing or developing original content as part of a broader strategy to build out a connected TV business. Over the last few years, Roku, Amazon and Apple have offered streamers original content that are exclusive to their premium and ad-supported services.

But "3 Pointers" is one of the first examples of an original program developed exclusively through a partnership with an advertiser.

"As we continue to evolve the experiences we deliver to our customers, we’re also expanding the opportunities we can provide brands to connect with our audience in unique ways that add value to their journey," Steve DeMain, the vice president of branded content and sponsorships at Vizio, said in a statement. "It's a win-win."

The partnership with BetMGM makes a lot of sense for Vizio: As Fierce Video has reported over the last few months, Vizio's connected TV platform — which is known to consumers as SmartCast and to marketers as Platform Plus — is the fastest-growing part of the company's business. As of last December, Vizio counted more than 17 million users of Platform Plus, which helped the company earn $477.9 million in platform revenue last year.

Officials at Vizio say "3 Pointers" is intended to provide streamers with more content choices, while also serving as a proof of concept for future marketers who want to take advantage of unique and measurable advertisement opportunities.

"The brand is part of the entertainment," a spokesperson for Vizio said in an email to Fierce Video on Tuesday.

To that point, Vizio worked closely with BetMGM on "3 Pointers," which executives hope will have a shelf life that outlasts the March Madness tournament.

"We collaborated with Vizio on this one-of-a-kind programming from concept to completion with the goal of creating a premium entertainment experience that taps into the excitement of March basketball," Matt Prevost, the chief revenue officer at BetMGM, said in a statement. "'3 Pointers' is a creative and dynamic series that we hope sports fans will enjoy throughout the month-long celebration of college basketball and beyond."

Article headline and intro updated to reflect that this effort is not original content from Vizio, but exclusive branded content.