Like most big media companies, Turner Broadcasting might not exactly be known for its technology innovation. But it’s looking to change that, with the launch of a new accelerator program called Media Camp, which hopes to seek out and help early-stage startups that are focused on solving problems for media companies.
To put it bluntly, media companies are weird businesses, and very few tech startups and entrepreneurs are well positioned to know how to deal with them. This is one of the main reasons that many media-focused startups find it difficult to get their technology widely adopted. It’s also one of the reasons it’s difficult for them to finding financing or support from the investment community.
Turner’s Media Camp is designed to help change this, by providing a program to educate entrepreneurs about how to operate in the media world. But it’s also being built to help other VCs see why these media-facing startups could grow to become thriving businesses in their own right.
The program is being led by former Apple(s AAPL) executive David Austin, who joined Turner to open a Silicon Valley office after spending years as an investor himself. The point of opening a West Coast office, according to Austin, was to help the Atlanta-based media company understand what sort of innovation was happening in Silicon Valley and to tap into it.
The Media Camp accelerator will be a typical 12-week accelerator program, in which Turner will make a small investment in startups – about $20,000 each – and partner to provide legal, administrative and other support to help ideas get off the ground. The program will also include weekly dinners for participants and meetings with mentors, as well as weekly office hours. More importantly, Media Camp will help make introductions within various parts of Turner and its parent company, Time Warner(s TWX), which could help young entrepreneurs land their first commercial deals.
For Turner, developing the accelerator is an easy way to get exposed to new and interesting technologies without making investments to build and roll them out itself. That will reduce some of the risk associated with experimenting on those technologies themselves. And, where it makes sense, there’s always the possibility of acquiring a technology or hiring a team outright.
The Media Camp accelerator could also serve as a way for Time Warner Investments to get an early look at some startups that it might have missed. The venture arm typically only makes later-stage B- or C-round investments in companies that have already matured. But this could give it more exposure to early-stage tech companies in the media space.
The accelerator is casting a wide net and looking for startups in a variety of disciplines — anything from video encoding, to ebook DRM, to gaming — as long as it’s media-focused. Austin expects the program to start small, with just a handful of companies in the first group. The Media Camp accelerator is accepting applications now and will be officially launching at SXSW, where it will field pitches from entrepreneurs. If you’ve got a great media startup to pitch, you’ll able to do so at the Revive Lounge at the Moonshine Bar & Grill, in downtown Austin.