No question entrepreneurs all over the place are working overtime to work up the next generation of television. You can’t go through a day without hearing or reading news of a launch nature, as in launching a new television network, program, 3D, HD or interactive content, video telephony service or something just as cutting-edge deliverable over your set.
Imagine what the pace of innovation benefiting all of us would be like if these projects, and others behind them, had the investment behind them to get off the ground. Not to mention the dent it might make in the unemployment rate. The level of investment necessary is out there to be had, thanks to venture capitalists, angel and super-angel investors across the nation who bet upwards of $30 billion a year on new enterprises. Plus, with the emergence of incubators like TechStars, Y Combinator and 500 Startups the last two years or so, these enterprises now have access to valuable coaching, mentoring and business plan formation, for a better shot at fortune.
Give this mix of VCs, angels and incubators tremendous credit for building the Internet into an incredible communication medium. They’re pushing breakthroughs in biotech, green tech, health care and nanotech. What’s incredibly shocking is that in spite of all the next-generation TV activity going on, this VC/angel/incubator universe spends nowhere near that level of investment or passion in TV.
When bringing this subject up over the years, I’ve heard a variety of excuses from VCs about why TV is not on their radar screens. Too much a hits biz, it’s a biz we know little about, we must go through the hoops of multichannel distributors, etc. Sorry, but from this corner, these excuses are unacceptable. VCs and angels didn’t know an Internet from a hole in the ground when they started to invest in that arena–and they learned. Same with biotech and the rest. If you don’t know, learn. To their credit, a few VCs have, and that’s why we have TVOne, Nuvo (formerly Si) TV, CBS Sports Network, HealthiNation, GMC and other channels and services (both content and technology). Karmaloop TV, a new HD network with diversity aspirations, anticipates launching this fall with funding from New York-based VC Insight Venture Partners.
And to the argument that multichannel distributors are a closed society, have you heard the news that Comcast will launch at least 10 independently-owned networks, at least eight owned/managed by people and organizations of color, over the next eight years? Three of them by January 2013? And the last time I checked, Time Warner Cable, Cox, DirecTV, Dish Network, FiOS TV and U-verse were adding channels at a fair clip, plus expanding video-on-demand, HD and 3D services.
It’s not much to ask VCs and angels to spend $1 or $2 billion a year on TV ventures, or incubators to open their doors for next-generation TV developers. Not much to ask this community to check out such TV showcases as the Consumer Electronics Show, NATPE, NAB and The Cable Show. Expanded advocacy among VCs and incubators by the TV industry’s trade associations could push the needle. How about the leaders of NAB, NCTA and CES…all based in Washington, D.C….taking a walk together to the National Venture Capital Association’s headquarters there and break the ice?
Time for the people behind the next generation of TV to get a fair share of the investment that could propel their creations. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much to ask for, and we all benefit much quicker.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!