Vator Box


Is there money in mid-tail content?

A look at what 'live' and niche programming grow up to be

Innovation series by Bambi Francisco Roizen
July 14, 2008
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In this week’s episode, we look at Ustream, which provides a live, interactive broadcast platform to anyone who wants their 15 minutes of fame, and Le Gourmet Tv, a niche channel for food lovers. While they're both different businesses, they're both betting on the mid-tail of content. So, we wanted to look at new entertainment models disrupting the traditional news and entertainment industry, and discuss where the money is to be made in ''live" and niche programming. For instance, will off-off-off-off Broadway shows or amateur versions of Saturday Night Live be more popular than a bunch of C-Span shows covering church services or our children's plays? Our round table of experts have different opinions.

This week, Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix, and Ezra Roizen, digital media investment banker and VB regular and John Shinal, Vator managing editor, helped me analyze and review these two companies, and their industries.   

We started with Ustream, whose service definitely extends the blogging and v-logging trend, as well as the commenting trend whereby stories are dialogues and interactive. It is a combination of NowLive, for live streaming, and Seesmic, which is a video Twitter. Ustream is betting on the proliferation of millions of new voices emerging and creating their own talk shows. Think, millions of "Oprahs."

(Note: Chris Yeh is an angel investor and CEO at the time the Ustream video pitch was uploaded. He is in the Ustream video. Chuck Wallace was appointed CEO late last year.)

Ezra pointed out that Ustream will probably end up being a C-Span of Little League baseball and church services. He saw UStream as a useful platform to power the long tail of live content. I saw Ustream powering a bunch of little talk shows, which will one day produce tomorrow's Oprah, or enabling a bunch of episodics. We're already seeing producers of live programming emerge, like, which produces episodics and airs them live at a particular time. I could see sites like CrushTV also using a live component in their shows.

But we all agreed that focusing on these tiny sites won't drive this business.

John suggested that Ustream focus on selling its platform to big media companies, much like NowLive's business model.

Chris, who’s not shy with his thoughts, was not convinced that Ustream had any compelling technology that big media companies would want, nor did Chris think that live programming was entertaining, useful or in demand. 

We also looked at Le Gourmet TV, which Chris said was a far more interesting model because the startup costs could be low and the advertisers were obvious. After three to five years, a company like this could probably sell itself for $10 million to $20 million. I agree. Just take a look at, a mid-tail site focused on digital media. It just sold for $30 million. Ezra and I both agreed that the company could probably raise a couple hundred thousand and grow its audience and then be sold to the Food Channel. There are a number of niche content sites appearing on Vator, such as TasteTV,, Vanuato TV, and Dadlabs, a channel for fathers.  

We definitely covered a lot of ground with these companies and their respective industries. I'm not giving it all away, so you'll just have to watch.

(Note: If you want to be on Vator Box, just get your friends to nominate you via the comment section. And, remember, if you disagree with what we have to say - which wouldn't be surprising - we welcome your opinions and feedback.)


Related companies, investors and entrepreneurs

Description: Ustream.TV is the live interactive video broadcast platform that enables anyone with a camera and an Internet connection to quickly and ...
Le Gourmet TV
Description: Le Gourmet TV is a gathering place for foodies!We produce HD broadcast quality branded content about food, wine, spirits and cooking. We ...
Description: People share their opinion on any topic in video. There is a social software layer, much like Twitter, to follow the conversation. Loic c...
Description: NowLive operates as a media network and technology platform for live interactive shows. The company's innovative Social Broadcasting plat...
Bio: Advisor-to and commenter-on emerging ventures
Bio: Founder Vator, Managing Partner - Vator Investment Club; Former Columnist/correspondent Dow Jones MarketWatch; Business anchor ...

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