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Television.com: Portal with vision

Larry Namer, co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, tops new site 8/13/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Broadcast.com made its millions with the help of Internet hype and hopes, and this Wednesday a site called television.com, an equally attractive domain name, will look to do the same thing-minus the Internet hype of 1999.

Television.com, majority owned by Steeplechase Media, along with partners Mike O'Connor (the original owner of the domain name) and MarkeTVision Direct, the company that O'Connor tapped to help find someone interested in buying it. Larry Namer, television.com CEO, former president and co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, says no cash exchanged hands for the rights to the name, with O'Connor and MarkeTVision Direct instead opting for equity.

"You sell a domain name, you get a few million bucks, but by the time Uncle Sam gets done with you and you buy a house and a Ferrari you're done," says Namer.

What exactly will television.com offer visitors? Namer says the site has evolved to become all things television, building on the original idea of making it another content-distribution vehicle.

"The name says convergence, and people expect a lot from the name," he notes. "They want programming, but they also want guides, information on technology, and we'll be reshaping it as we go along. We hope to become to the world of television what CNet has become to the world of computing."

One key will be having a site deep in links to outside entities, but another key is the domain name. Television.com has a natural "knee-jerk" surfing quality to it, something that Namer says is an important advantage over other TV-related sites.

Namer says the company has $4.5 million in financing, but now that the site is up and running, the company can actually go out and complete its first round of financing. More important than the financial backing are some of the content deals that have been reached.

The site has signed on more than 35 broadcast and cable networks that will offer promos of their programs. Among the pioneers: NBC, USA Network, the Food Network and A & E.

"Our site is somewhere between search engine and guide," adds Namer. "There's a lot of editorial to it, and it has a very distinct attitude. We love television, and what people are looking for is something more than just TV listings."

It will also offer international programming. Namer says the site has signed a deal to carry four television stations from India that will offer sports, news, movies and music. And the site is in the process of negotiating for channels out of Israel, Russia and China. "It's an interesting use of streaming media, and you can point to a large potential audience," he says.

Television.com will be available in a broadband version, and, Namer says, a set-top version that is very "television-centric" is also in the works. Namer says the company has already signed on one major MSO for carriage and is negotiating with a couple of others.

Television-centric is an important phrase to Namer, because the site will look to leverage its relationship with other television-centric sites to offer advertising sponsorships that can run across its partner sites.

"The problem with many content sites is they're below the radar screen of any advertising agency, so we've signed deals with some of those sites and will sell advertising across the entire base," he adds. "So we can aggregate their audiences while also keeping our content costs controlled."

Sponsorships, rather than banner advertising, will also play a role. "Sponsorship gives you a value added, and it goes back to the early days of cable," says Namer. "You have loads of inventory, but there's no reason to buy. So you get people involved in contests, promotions and sponsorship of whole shows."

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