The already-crowded online instructional video space is getting another entry, with AnswersTV officially taking the wraps off its service today. The startup is looking to differentiate itself from the competition by offering high definition, professionally produced segments that instruct and provide answers on a variety of topics. Unfortunately, what the company touts as its strengths might be its weaknesses.
AnswersTV is initially launching with content about health, food and magic. Each content channel has very slick-looking shows (produced in 1080i HD) featuring experts in their fields providing the lessons. For example, the health channel has a show called The Answered Patient which talks about different afflictions ranging from migraines to diabetes to cholesterol with input from real doctors. Future content categories will include wine, pets, jewelry and more.
AnswersTV was founded in 2003 and is venture-backed by Talon Asset Management. The company launched its beta last month and will generate revenue through advertising, syndication of content, and e-commerce.
The e-commerce works like this: you watch a card trick like the “Svengali” deck performed on video (embedded above). If you want to learn that trick, you must pony up ten dollars for the “Svengali” deck of cards. Once your payment is cleared, the cards are shipped to you and the instructional video is added to your online playlist explaining how to perform the trick. While the deck of cards is cheap, I’m not sure how many people will pay $160 to learn the “Euro Watch” trick. Other instructional areas don’t charge; for example, you can learn to properly slice an orange for free.
There are two big obstacles standing in the way of AnswersTV: competition and image.
If you Google “Svengali Deck” you can find videos on ExpertVillage explaining how to use the trick deck for free. And ExpertVillage is just one of the many how-to sites out there (VideoJug, 5min, SuTree, etc.). All offer expert advice on a wide range of topics and work to connect communities of people interested in those topics.
There’s no denying that AnswersTV has great-looking video, which will help as it seeks out TV distribution deals (it’s already got one with Cablevision). But it’s almost too good looking. The shows are so slick it’s like they’re coated in teflon, so they come off looking like one of those in-flight videos. The hosts all look like they’re getting paid to instruct you, rather than them doing it out of love for the topic.
AnswersTV is tapping into the right markets. People will spend money on food, wine and pets. But its focus on high-end professionalism might make its grand plans go poof and disappear.