Adam Carolla, Leo Laporte Among the "Broadcast Minds" at NAB
[We'll be streaming the Broadcast Minds event live on the StreamingMedia.com home page beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday, April 12.]
If the past two years' numbers are any indication, more than 80,000 people will assemble in Las Vegas next week for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. And there's no reason to doubt that, as with each passing year over the last decade, a larger percentage of those attendees will be flying the flag of new media, and that even the "old broadcast guard" will be more interested in online video solutions than ever before.
Both riding that trend and moving it forward, NewTek will once again be sponsoring an evening panel discussion that I'll have the honor of moderating. Last year's speakers included musician Peter Himmelman, MTV's Jeff Jacobs, the NBA Development League's Shawn Smith, and the New York Giants' Steve Sperling. This year's event, called Broadcasts Minds, has even more star power, and maybe even a higher geek quotient, with TWiT.TV's Leo Laporte, comedian and podcaster Adam Carolla, NBA Entertainment executive VP of operations and technology Steve Hellmuth, and St. John's University's director of athletic communications Mark Fratto. All of them are using online video to take their content directly to their audiences in one form or another, and each one is doing so in an innovative way. And, of course, all of them are doing so with the NewTek TriCaster.
I had the chance to speak with each of them in advance of the event, except for Fratto, who was understandably busy attending the NCAA Final Four. (If we connect before the weekend, I'll add more from him here.) You can read more about each of them beneath this video NewTek made to preview the Broadcast Minds event, which will be held at 6 p.m. on April 12 at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas.
Leo Laporte, TWiT.TV
Laporte is a geek's rock star; after his recent netcast from SXSW Interactive, the line for his meet-and-greet lasted for hours. Coming from a radio background—and still hosting "The Tech Guy" on more than 100 radio stations on the Premiere Network and on Sirius XM—Laporte launched This Week in Tech TV (TWIT.TV) in 2005, applying his radio skillset to an online video.
"We listened to our audience," Laporte says, "and they wanted video. One of the hallmarks of new media is a very tight coupling between the audience and the programmers. Our audience first said they wanted video, and then they said they wanted more video from more angles. Also, I wanted to do more live stuff. In live, there's an excitement that's missing from pre-recorded. There's no 'take 2,' and you can really interact with your audience during the show. That's the single most valuable lesson, especially for old media types—you need to interact with and respond to your audience."
Laporte says his talk radio background has been extremely valuable in prepping him for the demands of live netcasting—he's long preferred that term over podcasting, though he admits he's lost that battle—and says that "in some ways, my entire life has been leading up to this moment in time." Clearly, he's found his calling; in total, all of TWiT.TV's shows were downloaded more than 50 million times (uniques) in 2010, though he admits that the live views and listens are only about 10% of the total. "The downloadable content has been very successful, and fortunately, it's financed the live content," he says, to the point where TWiT.TV is building a new live studio with increased capabilities.
But that doesn't mean Laporte will be leaving behind his TriCaster HD anytime soon. "It couldn't be any easier to use," he says. "The only real barrier to entry is cost," Currently, the TriCaster begins at $7.995 for an SD TriCaster Studio, with the HD TriCaster TCXD300 running $14,995—which is still far cheaper than a complete outside broadcast truck, which Laporte and all of the people I spoke to said it replaces.
"For all of my shows, not only do I host, but I do all the switching, all the lower thirds, everything," Laporte says. "Instead of three cameras and three camera operators, I can set up eight cameras ahead of time and switch among them by myself, plus the VGA inputs allow us to show computer screens. I've trained two other hosts how to use it in just an hour or two."
Laporte adds that he makes ten times as much on the netcasts than he does from his radio show, in part because of the relative low cost of entry and the stronger appeal of video to advertisers.
I didn't actually get to speak to Carolla due to a last-minute scheduling content, but I spent time with his longtime executive producer Donny Misraje, who convinced Carolla to get into the podcasting game in 2009 after his radio show was canceled. Since then, the Adam Carolla Show has become one of the top downloaded podcasts on iTunes—some say in the world—a feat that's especially impressive given the fact that Carolla's podcasts (which are webcast live first) generally run 90 minutes or so, far longer than the traditional podcast or even radio or television interview.
"It's not so much an interview as it is a conversation," says Misraje, adding that it's something he couldn't do in a typical network environment. "Adam always felt that his previous shows (including Loveline and The Man Show) were always too big and took too long. Now, he can do whatever he wants without any interference. There's no approval process, no legal department to run things by. He's like an elite Navy seal of broadcasting. He has to make all the judgments."
Misraje says that getting advertiser and sponsor buy-in was a challenge in the beginning, even for someone with Carolla's track record, but that more and more advertisers are seeing online video and its granular, highly targeted demographics as the future. "Some people are still flat-out resisting, and there's definitely still an 'old boys' club' structure," he says. "There's still a lot of weight in the old school, but we're in the transition period now," moving from the artificially inflated numbers that advertisers are used to seeing in broadcast to the smaller, but more accurate and targeted numbers they can find online.
"They're the real numbers," he says. "There are small variations between uniques and total numbers, but online numbers are the real deal."
With the TriCaster, Misraje says, Carolla is able to let his webcast viewers be a "fly on the wall" to these long conversations, but you're able to view them from different angles, as opposed to the lower-budget, single-camera shots common on many webcasts/podcasts. "And with 90 minutes, it's not truncated. You get everything, and Adam turns every conversation into a therapy session. He gets people to talk about their childhoods, stuff they normally wouldn't talk about."
Misraje gives two pieces of advice anyone interested in starting their own online video show or podcast, assuming they don't have the profile of Adam Carolla. "Number one, do it," he says, adding that Carolla succeeds in part because he's genuine and he's passionate about communicating with his guests and his audience. "Number two, start slowly and just build on it. It should be a hobby, something you love to do. Don't try to take on the world right away, but if it starts to happen, it will take on a life of its own."
Steve Hellmuth, NBA Entertainment
If online video can let savvy entrepreneurs deliver content like the big broadcasters, it can also help old-school broadcasters cost-effectively reach new markets and grow their existing audiences. That's something NBA Entertainment's Steve Hellmuth realized early on.
"We view online video as additive to broadcast," he says, saying that delivering games live via the NBA League Pass on NBA.com not only gives them additional overall viewers but also boosts the league's broadcast viewership. The league has served 1.7 billion streams this year, while all three of the main networks that broadcast the games have seen major increases in viewers—TNT is up 48%, ABC is up 45%, and ESPN is up 28%.
"It's always going to boil up to the best available screen" Hellmuth says, offering the example of watching a game on a computer while you're finishing up work but moving to the plasma for the fourth quarter. But he also notes that it can go the other direction, allowing fans to stay with the game if they have to leave the TV and move to their laptop or mobile.
The NBA doesn't use the TriCaster for its main games, but its Development League uses it to stream games live online as well as to deliver live streams to local broadcasters for a fraction of what it used to cost. "The TriCaster lets you connect out to local TV stations at 1080p or 780p, and replace an HD television truck that costs $8 million dollars," he says. "That's allowing the D-League and soon the WNBA to get sampled a little more than they otherwise would. People are limiting the websites they visit on a daily basis, but are still searching across 30-40 channels on their TV. The next evolution for us is to take the TriCaster to broadcast."
Hellmuth adds that editors for the D-League's video also edit highlights directly on the TriCaster rather than outputting them to a traditional broadcast editor, then FTP the highlights to the league so they can post a highlights package later in the evening.
Mark Fratto, St. John's University
St. John's University—"New York's Team"—uses the TriCaster to produce more than 100 live sporting events and 200 on-demand highlight and feature packages a year, across 17 varsity sports, and lets them do it for almost no operating costs beyond the initial investment. That includes a dozen online video guides to major sports, all of which feature coach interviews, game footage, and behind-the-scenes looks at each team, often with student athletes as guides. The university also offers premium subscription "Stormtracker All Access" packages that include access to live event streams for $9.95 per month or $79.95 per year.
We'll post more from Mark Fratto if we get the chance to catch up with him before the event.
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