Titan TV's tantalizing test
This deal is interesting: TitanTV Network has cut a deal with Radar Entertainment to syndicate its new daily strip, Jury Duty, on TV stations’ Web sites.
That’s a pretty simple declarative sentence. Still, none of the names probably jump out at you. Titan TV? Haven’t heard of it. Radar Entertainment? No, not them either. And Jury Duty? Isn’t that some court show already on the air?
Let me break down why this deal merits some attention.
Titan TV was born from a technology developed by the ever-hustling Jack Perry and his team at Decisionmark. That technology was created specifically to help TV stations and satellite TV providers work together while staying strictly within FCC regulations. The Decisionmark software allows the FCC/TV stations/satellite TV providers/relevant engineers to determine how strong a broadcast signal is at any given household without having to go out to the house in question to conduct an expensive round of tests. The intention there was to end arguments between providers and the NAB on whether local TV stations’ signals were being trampled on whenever satellite TV providers’ imported distant signals – bringing WNBC New York to Memphis via satellite – for example. According to the FCC, satellite TV providers can do this, as long as the local Memphis NBC affiliate doesn’t reach the household in question. That’s where Decisionmark comes in really handy — a simple software check reveals whether or not the Memphis signals makes it out to the house. If not, the satellite provider can flip a switch to legally deliver a distant signal.
Decisionmark soon realized this useful technology could be used for a lot more than just determining whether or not it was okay to import a distant signal, so they developed a bunch of auxiliary technologies, such as TitanTV, which is essentially an automated online TV guide.
Now Titan TV wants to take another step forward and use its technology to partner with TV stations and program producers to bring syndicated programming to the Web. In the case of Radar Entertainment and Jury Duty, Titan TV is serving as the show’s online distributor, much like King World (now CBS) once distributed Oprah and Jeopardy! to TV stations. As far as I know, no one else does this. Titan TV is well-suited for this task because its technology can protect local TV stations’ boundaries, meaning that only audiences watching from that TV station’s market will be able to watch those syndicated shows. That protects that station’s local ratings and thus its revenue.
Assuming enough TV stations sign on, Titan TV plans to distribute this show nationally and sell national ads. That would work much like it does on traditional TV. A national advertiser would buy an ad, and it would run across Titan’s network of local TV station Web sites. The local stations would get a cut of the national ad revenue in turn for sharing their Web platforms, and they would also get to keep one-third of the revenue from any local ads they sell. The other two-thirds of that local ad revenue would go to Titan TV and Radar, of course.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road on this plan, from my point of view: If the major syndicators jump on this idea, Titan TV could be on to something big. If Titan TV can sell NBC Universal, Sony, News Corp., CBS and Warner Bros. on the idea of using its technology platform to distribute their syndicated programs on station Web sites, it could be a decent success, although it still remains to be seen if viewers want to watch these shows online. If, on the other hand, these studios want to do this themselves – and most of them are positioned to do so – Titan TV doesn’t really have anywhere to go. It can sell shows such as Radar’s Jury Duty, but massive companies such as NBC Universal and News Corp. and Sony are having a tough time getting ratings for their syndicated strips. Jury Duty and other small shows like it, with less-than-desirable time period clearances on smaller stations, are almost impossible ventures. Offering them over the Web is unlikely to change that.
That said, I don’t know what kind of revenue Titan TV expects or needs to make with this venture. Maybe it’s only a very little because the Titan platform already exists and the content already has been purchased by the TV stations from Radar. Best-case scenario: TV stations get one more type of content to offer both viewers and audiences on their Web sites for what’s likely to be very little additional cost, and program distributors get additional eyeballs on their product, also for very little additional cost. In that case, this idea seems like a no-brainer.