Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Online Video Conversations: Tom Morgan, Net2TV

At OTTCON 2013, I caught up with television industry veteran Tom Morgan, Founder and CEO of Net2TV, to discuss the evolution of traditional television programming and how it's changed with the rise of broadband Internet television. Net2TV is a free, advertising-supported long-form television programming platform for smart TVs and connected devices. Net2TV was established in May 2012 and launched its Portico TV service in December 2012, which delivers niche content channels in food, tech, news and entertainment and looks and feels like a normal "lean-back" TV viewing experience. Content partners included like Discovery's Revision 3, CBS Interactive's CHOW, Popular Science, CNET and other branded content.

Morgan is passionate about Net2TV because it provides him an opportunity to solve the '500 channels and there's nothing on' problem. It's an opportunity to create great TV based on a great business model for program developers and advertisers. Before founding Net2TV in 2012, Morgan spent the last 30 years in the digital media space on business development, focused on advertising models for DVRs, video on demand (VOD), and broadband TV.

According to Morgan, we're in the third phase in the evolution of television, with the two most important dates preceding on, August 28, 1948 and September 7, 1979. In 1948, CBS President Frank Stanton lured big name entertainers like, Lucille Ball, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny and Milton Berle away from NBC radio and signed them to TV, which marked the beginning of a whole new medium of programming with "I Love Lucy" and other new shows defined the golden age of television.

On September 1979, a double header softball game was broadcast live for the first time on a little cable TV start-up called ESPN, and launched the first 24/7 Sports channel which brought niche content including live and recorded telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming. A year later in 1980, CNN would launch as the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage and other special-interest channels and niche content would follow.

"I think where most people talk about this being a new generation of television technology and everything else, what I think is the answer is, these were the emergence of the new networks of television," says Morgan. "So, like you had ESPN and MTV emerge in the 70's and early 80's, you're going to see whole new forms of programming here. Is it radically different? I don't think so. I think people in a television setting, which are sitting on a couch looking at a screen on the wall, regardless of the technology, want to be entertained, they want to be informed, be engrossed and engaged. That's our job in the industry."
Morgan says that we've reached the tipping point for original Internet television programming, with the plethora of original content available from  Netflix, Crackle, Machinima, Revision3, The Makers, Bedrocket, YouTube creators and more and more choices everyday. The greatest opportunity, he says, is that television is being reinvented by this whole new class of programming.
"That's the biggest upside, ever, and that's why I'm in this business. That's the fun part," Morgan acknowledges.

This interview was recorded at OTTCON May 19-20, 2013.