How Glenn Beck wants to disrupt cable

gbtv glenn beck

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 . This means Beck will reclaim the very spot he lost when he was shown the door at Fox News, 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.

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