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Summary:

Is Glenn Beck ready to make $100 million with his new subscriber-only web TV venture, or is he barely breaking even? The answer depends very much on who you ask. However, Beck’s numbers don’t look all that bad when compared to some new cable TV properties.

gbtv glenn beck

Glenn Beck is taking his franchise of conservative commentary to the web Monday, streaming the first episode of his new two-hour show exclusively to paying online subscribers. The former Fox News star already has 230,000 subscribers who pay between $5 and $10 per month for access to his GBTV online video network, according to the Wall Street Journal, and BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield estimates (registration required) that Beck could generate $27 million in subscription revenue within a year.

Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici even thinks Beck is on track to “become a $100 million man.” Subscription revenue could eventually reach $135 million, estimates Bercovici. Combined with sponsorships, radio deals and merchandise, Beck “is on course to break the $100 million barrier sooner than later,” writes Bercovici.

However, not everyone buys into the GBTV success story. Keith Olbermann mused on Twitter today that Beck’s initial subscriber number actually is on the low end:

It’s no surprise that Olbermann would be mocking Beck, but he’s got a point when it comes to comparing Beck’s revenue to his previous salary at Fox News: GBTV has to pay bills for production and bandwidth, with the latter increasing with every additional viewer. “Expenses are probably $1 million a month,” estimated Olbermann, which would put Beck just slightly above break-even, depending on which subscription bracket his viewers choose to subscribe to.

Of course, breaking even from day one isn’t exactly a small feat either for a subscriber-only web TV venture. In traditional television, it often takes years before a cable channel actually makes money, and Beck may be ready to compete with some of cable’s audience numbers as well.

The WSJ reported today that Oprah’s new OWN network only had 156,000 people tuning in on average in June. Oprah recently acknowledged that running a cable network is “a lot harder” than she had imagined. Beck may just be about to prove that web TV can actually be easier.

  1. Why are you stepping into a pissing match between idiots? This kind of post severely devalues the GigaOm brand. Usually stellar content, along side garbage like this. Please refrain from future brain farts that lead to this crap. We can always go to HuffPo (useless) for stuff like this.

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    1. Peter, I think Beck’s move to the web is relevant, regardless whether you agree with him or not (I don’t). But it’s also worth pointing out that you can’t compare apples to oranges, as Olbermann did.

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      1. Janko, THANK YOU for covering this. This is something important to cover. The politics of the individual is irrelevant. If he can make a profit doing this, it opens up the flood gates to others trying and the era of online TV will be finally upon us. Please try to get an interview with Beck and/or the people behind the scenes of this venture and give us the technical and business angle.

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    2. having your period eh?

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    3. You could not be more wrong. GigaOm covers the web. Like it or not, Glenn Beck has an important web venture and if the name behind the project was not Glenn Beck and not about politics you would welcome the coverage. You have to look past your bias and learn lessons from the coverage that you can apply to your own projects. That is the value I think the reporting from GigaOm brings.

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    4. Steve Tchorzewski Tuesday, September 13, 2011

      woot!

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  2. Beck has 230,000 viewers from day one. Oprah has 156,000 a couple years in. Olbermann has about 25,000 on the Al Gore channel.

    The comparisons look favorable.

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    1. Actually, paying subscribers don’t equal viewers, even though the likelihood that someone subscribing to GBTV is tuning in is higher than someone subscribing to Current.tv as part of a cable bundle.

      Also, Oprah’s channel launched in January.

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      1. Paying subscriber seems a level above viewer. Did you know that Glenn will be broadcasting his first show today, Sept. 12? So these people signed up before he even went online with his broadcast.

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      2. Rob, Beck inherited some 80,000 subscribers from his radio club.

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  3. So Glenno now has a PAYING cult… Marvy.. Shows how far the insidious fringe will go to further the banner of hate..

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  4. Keith just can’t help himself. Every time he opens his pie hole he makes some dumb comment. Keith has demonstrated he can’t give away his show while Beck is generating millions. Jealous? I think so.

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  5. That’s still 229,999 more people than watch Olbermann… ack.

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  6. Wow, spectacularly misleading post. GBTV has a 14 day free trial so the real question is how many people stick around and actually pay. Rich Greenfield may need to drop a zero or two on his “estimates.”

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    1. Actually, Glenn had over 200K members BEFORE he started the free trial. Keep in mind that his $10.00 a month extreme members were automatically rolled into GBTV once it launced.

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  7. CountryClubRepublican Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Netflix charges $5 per month for streaming video and they are making a good profit, not “breaking even” as Olbermann suggests for Beck.

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    1. Netflix charges $8 per month, and it isn’t producing any of its own content. Plus someone as big as Netflix pays a lot less for bandwidth than a small startup like GBTV. You can’t really compare the two at all…

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      1. Janko, There seems to be a lot of confusion about how this venture compares against others. Maybe do a blog post that puts the comparisons into the right perspective?

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  8. I don’t like the guy but I like the topic of a web pay tv business and see how it works out definently a behind the scenes coverage would be welcomed

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    1. whats not to like? Glenn has always said ” Don’t believe word I say, Look it up” I have, I love this guy, I’m a full time student and can watch the program anytime I want, I think I am going to cancel my cable, Because, Jon Stewart who I love even though most of his audience are useful idiots, and Glenn Beck is all I need for a fair and balanced , both can be watched on my laptop.

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  9. Olbermann is thinking like a TV producer. Their costs are inflated. You could produce the same content for much less on the web since you don’t have the same legacy costs and personality overhead when you have a “Free” anchor like GB. I suspect he is going to do much more with less, whether you agree with him or not. The only thing that might be hurting him is the advertising costs to acquire users.

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  10. Interesting that it’s powered by MLBAM no?

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