The New York Times’ Brian Stelter — he who was recently saved from potential Twitter humiliation by an exceedingly pretty and kind young lady — reported today on how Glenn Beck, whose contract with Fox News expires later in the year, plans on reaching his audience in the future: He’s going to be, despite what you may think of him, a bit of a ground-breaker and put his show and other properties on the web behind a paywall.
It is an adaptation of the business models of both HBO and Netflix for one man’s personal brand — and a huge risk, as he and his staff members acknowledged in interviews in recent days.
“I think we might be a little early,” Mr. Beck said of his plan for the Internet network, called GBTV, which will cost $5 to $10 (per month). “But I’d rather be ahead of the pack than part of it.”
The business decision by Mr. Beck’s company, Mercury Radio Arts, hinges on an expectation that more and more people will figure out how to view online shows on their TV sets through set-top boxes and video game consoles — and that they will subscribe directly to their favorite brands.
This sort of thing — a prominent entertainer, talking head, writer, etc. well-established as a bonafide 21st century brand who opts to circumvent the powers that be to offer their talents directly to consumers on the web — is something that I’ve been anticipating for some time. When Conan was sh*t-canned by NBC there was some speculation that he might go this route, but he ultimately opted for the safety of a fat contract with a cable network. Someone’s going to do it eventually, but can Beck be the one to pull it off?
On the face of it, putting my personal feelings about him aside, yes and no. On the one hand, his is a fiercely loyal audience. Glenn Beck’s fans would follow him anywhere, even if he was given a show on one of the evil liberal news outlets like MSNBC, they’d show up and tune in. And on the web, he can ratchet up his act a few notches without having to worry about appeasing network execs and advertisers. Glenn Beck can be as unhinged as he wants to be, just as long as the subscriber dollars keep rolling in.
But on the other hand his audience skews old — very old — and old people and technology don’t tend to mesh all that well. For as easy and as simple as watching video on the web has become, I don’t know many elderly people whose web skills have advanced far beyond maintaining an email account, MAYBE a Facebook account. Then again, their love for Beck may be the sort of thing that could inspire conservative old people to invest more time in becoming web savvier? Who knows. The only I know for sure is that I won’t be forking over $10 for him — that money is much better spent on music downloads and porn, thank you very much.
Speaking of music, did you know that Beck believes that Muse’s Grammy performance earlier this year was some sort of secret call for a revolution? Well of course he does!