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Glenn Beck on the Future of TV – and Radio

If there is no “radio,” there is only media.  If there is no “television,” there is only media.  And what drives each media brand is the idea at its core.  All thanks to the Internet and its panoply of digital doodads and the ubiquitous opportunity for any and every tribe to find a home and each other in the presence of the sandbox called their passions.

Case and point:  Glenn Beck.  Since last month Glenn has been reinventing the future of television – and doing it online.

Like him or hate him, you have to credit Glenn and his team for navigating some perilous waters and doing so with early signs of success. His new effort, GBTV, already has over 230,000 subscribers (that’s 74 million more average viewers than what Oprah’s cable net has) paying between $5 and $10 per month to play in the Glenn Beck sandbox, and GigaOm reports that one analyst estimates that Beck could generate $27 million in subscription revenue within a year, on track to eventually reach $135 million.

In a fascinating interview with Business Insider, Glenn spells out his strategy, and if you listen closely, you can recognize this as the likely strategy for many personality-driven entertainment brands, whether or not they have a network or cable deal.

Some highlights from Glenn’s comments:

[GBTV represents] the way people will consume information whether that’s news, commentary, documentaries, but also education and entertainment in that vein. I think that’s the way it’s going to be consumed in the future. It’s the Netflix of information. …it is exactly the quality you would get from a network. We can produce that quality and on a daily basis and actually double the amount that we were doing over at Fox. The next step now is to add some of the bells and whistles and the things that will make it radically different. To then put television as you know it where it belongs, in the history books. It’s total freedom, I own it, it’s mine, I don’t have another investor in it – it’s mine. And so I’m the creative guy, it is my voice. I am hiring people that are tired of having somebody else tell them what to do. I’m not in that business, you will succeed or fail based on, what your merit is, what you do, can you attract that audience? The first, most important thing is, a straight line between me and the viewer. Don’t care about anybody else. Care about the viewer. So your success and failure rate is gonna happen. Rapidly. This is the future of television. I think television is going to move online and you’re going to see individuals take their channel, their brand and their channel, online. I’m not sure that paying for it is necessarily the future. It might be, I’m not sure. I think it is now because we’re building something so unique, and I have such a bond with my audience. My audience knows who I am. Never, never betray yourself . If you don’t betray yourself, if you are who you say you are and you never betray that. You will be able to attract an audience. They’re hungry, on both sides of the aisle, on any topic. The people are hungry for something genuine. So, A: Be genuine. B: Try to give the people more than what you’re charging. Don’t be greedy with the money. Just think out of the box, because no one’s in that box anymore. You’re alone in that box. Think out of the box. Do it right. Stay true to yourself.

Glenn’s radio show will continue to fill the funnel with new GBTV viewers, of course.  People ask how Glenn will fare without the power of FOX News – these people forget about the immense promotional power of radio.

For Beck, “radio” or “TV” is not the point.  Glenn himself is the “idea” at the heart of his own cross-platform media empire, and it’s because of that “idea” that his brand is far bigger than any traditional medium which might propagate it.

This is something all of radio needs to recognize.  You can be a distribution channel and live and die by the health of that channel, or you can create content which constitutes its own “idea” in the minds of consumers. Then you can express that idea in many forms and in many places and across many channels of distribution.

That’s why, in the long run, the future of radio is “media,” and the future of “media” is talent.

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