Archive for September, 2011

Glenn Beck, GBTV, and the Future of Internet TV Programming

Say what you will about Glenn Beck but he is paving the way for a lot of other shows to jump to Internet TV. Think of it this way: the music industry was flipped on it’s ass because we had to buy entire albums or CD’s when we really only wanted 1-2 tracks. As a consumer, buying my media this way is ludicrous, I only want to pay for what I want to watch. Today the cable operators drive money through advertising and subscriber fees. Of that, maybe 40% gets back to the content creators. See the parallels with the music industry here?

This morning I re-read the 9/12 through 9/18 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek’s article about Glenn Beck Bets Big on GBTV. One of the major challenges is filling out the content space with quality programming. That’s not cheap and can run about $25k per episode for 1970’s programming. $25,000 for reruns. How much of that goes back to the people that created or acted in the show? Probably very little. But there’s actually a cheaper and more effective way to go about this. The intent is to accomplish two things here: 1) Fill out the day with more programming¬† 2) Make that programming unique and interesting enough to attract more viewers.

Who creates unique and interesting content? High school students, college students and indie studios. Usually underfunded and fighting for space on YouTube, Vimeo or Ustream, hoping to go viral or at least gain some notoriety.¬† There’s definitely unique story lines, things we haven’t seen before on cable TV because the studios just won’t take a flyer on an unproven producer or writer. The costs are just too high for a studio to do that. But the economics of Internet TV are different, you don’t have to pay the network, studio, local stations and all the other people in between the story and the viewer.

So here’s the plan… Create a competition that awards 10 shows $25,000 each in financing. That cash allows the creators to really begin to produce their story lines. Give them enough funding to add actors, stunt people, creatives, writers, special effects, whatever is needed to really produce what most people consider a TV quality experience. How to pick the top 10? That’s a little tougher but should attract an audience (aka, subscribers). First, how much programming needs to be filled out? Of 24 hours, 6 are dedicated to GBTV. The most anyone can reasonably shoot, edit, and produce is probably 30 minutes a week if they’re going to class or have day jobs. At 30 minutes each you need 36 programs per day, 252 programs per week. Contract with 252 creators that over a 3 month period they will produce one 30 minute program each week for 12 weeks with zero dollars in funding. If they miss the production schedule they get dropped from the competition. At the end of the three months the top 10 shows, based on consumer votes, get $25,000 to re-shoot, re-edit and re-publish their shows and to really tell a more in-depth and complete season. Do the same thing for the next three months, and the next. In a year you’ve got 40 shows and you did it for $1,000,000.

Think it’s a crazy idea? The dry run for this has already happened, it’s Kiefer Sutherland’s “The Confession” which ran on HULU for 10 episodes. It was well produced, had a great story and two great actors. And it was never seen on cable TV. That’s where Internet TV has to go in order to attract a mass audience. Which it can do, we just need to foster it along. So in the end, I pay for Glenn Beck but I a whole lot of new programs to watch. Oh, and there’s yet another reality show wrapped up in all of this which seems to attract a lot of viewers still.

TV 4.0

Smart TV 4.0Still struggling with seeing the need for smart tv’s? They’re cool, have lots of features, price points are dropping and screen sizes are increasing. But that’s not enough. I think we’ve got it all wrong – surfing the web or porting Android apps to them isn’t where this should be going. That’s a disconnect for me, people typically use a laptop or a mobile device for those purposes. Instead, think home integration. What do you want to do when you’re watching TV and don’t want to get off the couch? Those are convenience items for consumers, services that we’ll conceptualize and bring to market. What do you order, have shipped to you, and then watch on TV? Those vertical’s are ripe for disruption over smart TV’s. That’s where this should be going. Surfing the web on my TV? No. Sorry.

Envision the Future.

I was at ITS2011 in Tampa last week watching Carlos Dominguez give a presentation about innovation and how the best companies approach it. After giving a handful of examples he asked the crowd “How many of you take time out of your week to actively envision what the future will look like?” Out of the entire crowd, perhaps 5 raised their hands. That’s absolutely horrendous. My parents used to say “What will they think of next?” We’re not in that age anymore. It’s up to us to think of what’s next. At a time when ideas are a commodity and technology is relatively cheap, anybody can come up with and start to build “what’s next.” Five people raising their hand for looking into the future is ridiculous, especially at a technology summit. It should be everyone’s job to examine their own lives and those of their family members and ask “What is too complicated today? What tools do I want to see come to market that make my life easier, more connected, or more effective?”

If you’ve ever tried opening a restaurant in Tampa you should be able to come up with at least two services that would make the process faster and more effective for the restauranteur as well as the City of Tampa. How much of that could also scale to other cities? Probably several. Those are products. That’s the future. It’s not the next Facebook but it’s cost savings for municipalities in a time when they’re looking to cut costs and gain efficiencies.Where else would you start looking?

At ITS2012 can we please have 10 people raising their hands?

Thought Rut.

For reasons I can’t get into, I’ve been struggling with the decision to pivot my business model over the past week. I’ve had three alternate product concepts in reserve just in case the situation developed and I needed to use them. But when the time came I found myself asking “What does this product do that’s unique and that my potential strategic partners can’t do for themselves?” What I had didn’t quite pass this test. The concepts I had were not strong enough to stand on their own because a potential partner could just throw tons of money at it to solve it. Typically when I’m in a situation like this I’ll do the 20 Answers exercise. Some progress but nothing ground shaking. Out came IDEO’s Method Cards. A few hints at things but again, nothing. I spoke with others that I’ve done product development with. Nothing. That’s actually not true, I helped someone with a new feature on one of their products. Tastes great but it’s less filling. Keep looking. Blanking out while looking around my office, I saw Creative Whack Pack cards on a shelf. These were handed out a couple of years ago at my previous role but I always considered them a little too elementary to actually work with. Well, time to suck it up and get back to fundamentals. Quickly flipping through the cards I dismissed every one of them. Until I hit on “Exaggerate.” That one passed the gut check for some reason. Exaggerate the idea – blow it way out of proportion. I took that and re-did the 20 Answers exercise. After about 90 minutes I had the answer. It was feasible, unique in the market, and has a workable revenue model. I’m back on track and that’s what I’m running with for DEMO Day.

When you find yourself in a thought rut and no new ideas are formulating Рgo back to the fundamentals. Look at things you dismissed before, look in places you thought were too easy, silly, or just dumb.  Go back to Crayons and paste if you have to.

Inner Workings of DEMO Day

This video was taken leading up to Boulder’s DEMO Day in the summer of 2010. What does it mean to the companies that are participating? As you’ll hear David Cohen state that you’ll base your success on the number of meetings that you get. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that as all the work leading up to DEMO Day is aimed at getting your company funded. Gazelle Lab’s DEMO Day is Nov 17th at Mahaffey Theatre.

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