Blog Post

How Glenn Beck wants to disrupt cable

Think what you will about Glenn Beck’s politics, you have to admit his newest venture is pretty ambitious: Beck is launching a subscription-only online TV network this week. GBTV, as the venture is called, promises “a mix of news, information and entertainment programs,” but its biggest attraction is undoubtedly a daily two-hour talk show hosted by Beck himself.

The live show will air at 5 p.m. EDT starting this September, according to the New York Times (s nyt). This means Beck will reclaim the very spot he lost when he was shown the door at Fox News, (s NWS) directly competing with whomever replaces him on the cable news network.

However, even more ambitious than his plan to compete with Fox online is Beck’s business model. Viewers will have to pay $5 a month to access the daily show. Premium subscribers willing to pay $10 per month will get access to a video broadcast of Beck’s radio show, as well as other additional material. Beck is announcing further details with a live behind-the-scenes show at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

Subscribers will be able to watch the show online starting Sept. 12, and also access it through an iOS app as well as a Roku channel. The latter could be a boon for Roku, introducing the device to new audiences and helping it on its way to reach its next milestone of three million sold devices by the end of this year.

Beck is tapping into an existing subscriber base for GBTV. The controversial host has been able to amass some 80,000 paying subscribers for a kind of fan club for his radio show, giving paying subscribers access to video streams of the show as well as the Glenn Beck University and other features that will now be rolled into GBTV.

The venture isn’t without risks, despite the guaranteed revenue. Earlier attempts to launch subscription-only online networks have largely failed, including one that catered to a very similar audience. The Los Angeles-based conservative blog venture Pajamas Media launched an online TV network dubbed PJTV in 2008.

PJTV’s original goal was to build a conservative network that would rival TV news operations and finance itself entirely through subscriptions, but even prominent commentators like Glenn Reynolds and Joe the Plumber didn’t attract a paying audience that was large enough to sustain these efforts. PJTV continues to publish videos online and offer a number of subscription plans, but current videos are available for free and largely provide additional content the associated Pajamas blogs.

One has to wonder whether Beck’s venture will suffer a similar fate, or whether he’ll succeed in bringing Fox News-like audiences behind his company’s pay wall.

12 Responses to “How Glenn Beck wants to disrupt cable”

  1. jacob

    I have been searching for hours to try to figure out if I could get Glenn’s new show on my parent’s Sony Bravia without having to buy another device. I have an Apple TV that gets so I’m hoping when the show starts I will be able to get it on that.(I wont be too disappointed if I can’t.) I had always thought that internet capable TVs would have the ability to download apps. Let me know if anyone finds out anything that might be helpful:)

    • McBeese

      Jacob, Glenn Beck has stated that President Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people (his words), and that our Obama government shares many parallels with Hitler’s Nazi regime. It is all available online if you would like to verify these points.

      It is tech newsworthy that someone like Glenn Beck is pushing the boundaries of new media distribution. I find it sad, however, that anyone wants to listen to what he has to say. Please do your homework and listen with a critical ear.

  2. While I don’t agree with his social conservatism (or evangelical religious nature), I wish him good luck. The more people that take a shot at creating a new business model for online TV, the better. I would hope that if he can interest advertisers, he take them on and start lowering his subscription price until his service can be offered free.

  3. They’re doing a two tier subscription model. I thought that he would be doing shorter segments organized by subject matter. Maybe the on demand stuff (only available for 30 days per person) will be organized that way. Either way I was hoping that he would drop the scheduled, long, live, shows and start doing shorter, focused, fully on-demand content organized by subject and payed for by highly valued advertising. He isn’t taking advantage of the strengths of the internet. This might even be a worse model than what he had with FOX News. We’ll see, but for now I’m sorry that I got my hopes up. I thought his move would become a force for the good of new media but he just dragging all the weaknesses of the old media in with him.

  4. McBeese

    I’m always happy to see newcomers migrating to the new media models, but it saddens me to think that Beck might have an interested audience.

  5. Dan Agostino

    Janko: I was looking for more on what the New York Times story on this topic revealed: specifically, that MLB Advanced Media will be powering this from an Internet video standpoint. Could you dig into whether this means that MLBAM will be offering this type of service to others? Or if Major League Baseball just has a sweet spot for Glenn Beck?

    • Ryan Lawler

      @Dan Agostino – MLBAM already powers live video streams for a number of third parties, including (I believe) the NBA and March Madness on Demand. So providing white-label outsourced services is nothing really new from MLBAM — although this is the first time I’ve heard of them providing those services for a non-sports organization.

  6. Mandi

    I kind of feel like this is the same thing Revision3 and Leo Laporte’s TWiT network have been doing for years, and it’s not particularly innovative. The only difference being Beck is someone “the masses” know about (rather than REV3 or TWiT which are more niche). I’ll be extremely sad if Beck gets any sort of credit for this “innovation”.

    • DougS

      Mandi the thing you are missing here is that if Beck is successful, you are potentially seeing a paradigm shift where TV stars are giving up lucrative TV deals to create their own franchise online with direct distribution. Of course, Leo has been doing this, but in some respect he had to do it out of necessity as TechTV basically went away and it was hard to find a home for his niche the way he wanted to do it. Beck has millions of viewers each day and millions more on the radio, so him choosing the online distribution model over TV is a big deal and anyone looking to do the same will be hoping he is successful. Maybe Keith Olbermann should have gone that route.