13 September 2011

GBTV Signs On

On September 12, 2011, Glenn Beck’s webcast network GBTV had its official debut.  Beck broke from his popular 5 PM show on Fox News Channel in June and put everything on the line to establish a subscription based web streaming network in less than six months.

Critics claim that Beck was fired from FoxNews for being too controversial and losing key sponsors at that time slot.  Well, if that were the case, Roger Ailes would have acted immediately rather than allowing Beck to allude to his future project for a couple of months.  Moreover, if Beck was such an out of control anchor, why was he able to do his final show entirely live?  It is more plausible that Beck felt constrained, even as an opinion maker, being on a news network. By the same token, FNC might not have minded taking more heat for Beck’s controversial views and wanting to win back big advertisers who refrained from playing on Beck’s timeslot.

Beck’s weltanschuung is that political correctness, big government, straying from capitalism and not reacting prudently to instances of Islamofascism will result in coming difficult times for American and the world.  Beck believed that thru his FoxNews show, he had done what he could do to inform Americas about the impending dangers.  Beck wants to use GBTV along with his other ventures (Beck’s 1791 Clothing line giving seed money to his Mercury One charity efforts) to prepare dedicated viewers to prepare their own lifeboats and be ready to assist their neighbors.

Beck notes that unlike National Public Radio, GBTV does not defend on viewers like you but on you.  GBTV is using a subscription model for the streaming network, which starts at $4.99 a month for basic access to $9.99 a month for the equivalent of the “Insider Extreme” all access pass. In July, there were just 80,000 subscribers.  Just before the launch of GBTV, the subscriber base swelled to 230,000 but some of them may be promos. This compares with Oprah’s OWN channel on basic cable, which only manages to attract 183,000 viewers. It is estimated that GBTV is on track to gross more than $20 million in its first year of operation.

Currently, GBTV consists of broadcasting a televised version of Beck’s three hour radio show, the “4th Hour” featuring Beck’s sidekicks Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere as well as two full hours of Glenn Beck’s TV show.  Beck has referenced “The B.S.(Brian Sack) of America” and Liberty Treehouse, aimed at educating children about America’s founders.  Beck wants to establish a news comedy show as a conservative antidote to the Daily Show.   Beck is also trying to score rights for classic television series.  But for now the spotlight is mostly on Beck.

By being on his own GBTV network, it is like having Glenn Beck Unplugged and Glenn Beck Unleashed. But the blackboard is back and is new and improved. While the set looks good and is personalized by Beck himself with memorabilia, GBTV does not have the resources or broadcast experience of FoxNews, so some transitions were rough and the audio had slight echos when throwing to different segments.  GBTV is using streaming technology from Major League Baseball and the material posted before the first show looked spectacular on a big screen HDTV.  Alas, technical difficulties at my household with Roku wiring necessitated watching the GBTV premiere on a laptop.  Perhaps my laptop was strained for RAM, but there were a couple of streaming hiccups during the two hour show.  The show will also be available to subscribers on smartphones, but may also be prone to data delivery challenges. But shakedowns are to be expected for a new media venture.

The content of Beck’s GBTV debut showed why he wanted to get off cable television for his own network.  When opining about the economy, Beck bluntly said: “The President, he’s a Marxist”. Beck blazing appraisal epitomizes his mantra of “The Truth Lives Here” and to speak his mind freely. The first hour included a prolonged and personalized benediction.  These are things that would just not be a good fit on FNC.

Contrary to liberal preconceptions, the show was not railing about the Obama Administration or scaring people to buy gold.  A poignant moment was when Beck invited ten 9/11 First Responders (including the NYFD Captain photographed with President Bush on the Pile) into the studio to be honored.  Beck interacted with the studio audience and sought opposing opinions about a second amendment issue without berating those who opposed him.  Historians should love GBTV’s flagship, as the first show detailed the Black Tom explosion in New York City in 1916.  The explosion was the result of German sabotage which registered 5.6 on the Reicher scale.  But progressive President Woodrow Wilson (surprise) conveniently covered up the terrorist attack which damaged the Statue of Liberty so as not to rock his “Wilson Kept Us Out of War” platform.  Beck then connected how FDR cited the Black Tom incident as a rationale for rounding up the Nisi in World War II.  Beck likened the suppression of the Black Tom incident with the deliberate forgetting of salient details of 9/11.

GBTV’s flagship program also has news updates from The Blaze, Beck’s internet news blog, as delivered by former NPR and CNN analyst Amy Holmes.  Beck also introduced Raj Nair, a former ESPN reporter, who will eventually be the face of GBTV and will highlight Mercury One’s charity endeavors. Neither Holmes nor Nair are typical TeaParty types and that is not just based on their ethnicity but their world views.  Yet both are willing to risk their careers to go with GBTV because they believe in the overall cause.

During these bad economic times, GBTV’s subscribers will mostly be the same facetiously nicknamed “sick twisted freaks” and motivated tea party types who want to stop the progressive red tide which has been expanding big government.  But GBTV shows nascent signs of quality production, compelling in-depth programming and a conservative/libertarian point of view with a sense of humor.  GBTV may still be too early for the market, but with Roku boxes, Netflix streaming strategy and the prospect of an Amazon Tablet which relies on Amazon video, this may change how news junkies on the right side of the aisle get their information.

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