SpecTV Hopes to Find Treasure From Networks' Trash
By Mike Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
James de Rin is attempting to build a cable television channel that uses the Internet for ratings and research through his Web site SpecTV (www.spectv.com). The entrepreneur is giving overlooked television shows renewed life through this site by taking shows and pilots that either were not purchased by American television networks, or cancelled after a limited run, and placing them on the SpecTV site for on-demand viewing.
This cable channel will use the Web as one tool to reach viewers, who can then give their opinions on a show. These ratings can be used to attract potential existing companies; at least until de Rin builds his own cable channel.
The pitch to the average Web surfer is simple: most of us have watched a new show that didn't last. Now we have a chance to view it again.
``What I'm doing is really different, and some people may think I'm crazy," said de Rin, a native of Great Britain who works in Los Angeles. ``I really believe there is a market out there for these shows."
Part of the reason for his optimism is that his business plan also attempts to sell these discarded shows to the highest bidder. SpecTV's owner says he intends to build a TV network on the Web with an array of content that has already been produced. The site charges a $25 annual subscription fee, which allows customers to view available shows. As of March, he has nearly 500 subscribers, with more being added monthly.
``These shows are literally sitting on a shelf or in a vault," said de Rin, who is contacting numerous network executives in an effort to obtain the rights to other cancelled shows. ``It's a passion and a dream right now but I'm excited about the potential."
One such show is called ``Show Me the Money," an educational show on the value of money, detailing everything from coin collecting to the basics of financing. Producer and director Rob Ekno is hoping to produce a 13-part series covering various topics, completely funded by corporate sponsorship.
Ekno hopes to provide the video free of charge to schools across the country. The target audience would be elementary school students. Ekno has hosted a collectible coins shopping show on The Panda Shopping Network.
``Coins are a huge collectible item and I think many kids are involved today," said Ekno. ``There's a market out there for this type of video and for additional educational programs." ``Show Me the Money" was one of the first shows that utilized the services of SpecTV.
By creating a cable network with free programming submitted by industry players and young talent, de Rin hopes to sell advertising time on cable and the Internet. When the Web site receives potential television submissions from visitors, these images and text bytes can be encoded and video streamed over the Web. The online audience, based on ratings and hits, would rate the shows.
The SpecTV Network would then turn the top-rated submissions into a 30-minute television show on cable with a Q&A session to follow. Better-known actors, industry agents, managers and network executives would finance this network.
De Rin said the American television market is a $28-billion industry that is driven by ``hit shows" and he believes SpecTV can win a piece of the pie. Current Web sites Wink (www.wink.com) and RespondTV ( www.respondtv.com) already have responded to the demand of online programming options and wireless companies are reportedly working on adding television programming on hand-held telephones.
SpecTV can repackage past TV shows and pilots using market research data generated from the Internet. SpecTV hopes to make money as a market research tool for agencies, networks and cable companies. The company plans to work closely with these industry players to develop schedules in all genres.
Yet de Rin envisions an even larger opportunity beyond existing programming. He sees the Web site being an outlet for aspiring television producers and scriptwriters. He hopes to offer a service in which site visitors can add their programming idea on the SpecTV.com site and broadcast it to the virtual world.
He realizes the investment may not pay off for a few years and hopes to begin making a profit within two years. He believes the establishment of a cable channel would only happen once the Web site has demonstrated a high level of success. Currently the company makes money when it sells content but much of its seed money goes into research and development.
``If there are 100,000 hits to your video, it might suggest a good idea that can be sold and developed as an actual show," said de Rin. ``This is a much better option for a person than sending out a video in a manila envelope to agents and not getting a response. Now a person could have some evidence that the idea has merit."
De Rin compares his infant idea to Internet cult behemoth Napster, which sent shockwaves through the recording music industry with its free music ``trading" system. Until the courts deemed Napster's copyright stances illegal, the issue caused a sometimes bitter debate between proponents, which included much of the listening public and several bands and performers, and the large recording companies and several other bands and performers.
De Rin hopes SpecTV has as much an effect on the television industry as Napster did on the music recording industry.
Ekno believes the idea has merit. He said the key in the television/movie industry is exposing your idea to an executive with the power to make decisions.
``Sometimes you just get lucky in Hollywood and you have to rely on someone giving you a chance," said Ekno. ``If the right person sees the show, it can really take off. Our goal is to use any medium we can to market the show."
Mike Scott (Mascott17@aol.com) is a freelance writer in the metropolitan Detroit area. He has written for various magazines, online publications and local newspapers covering such topics as business, technology, finance and sports.
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