The following article appears in the June 4 – June 10, 2007 issue of The Los Angeles Business Journal. Special thanks to Rachel Paap for getting the story out there, Joel Russell of LABJ for thinking we’re so cool, and all the hosts and volunteers for doing such a great job week after week!
By JOEL RUSSELL – 6/4/2007
Los Angeles Business Journal Staff
The television industry has a lot of hard-working professionals, but few can match Brian Gramo for sheer productivity.
Gramo owns every imaginable job title at TheStream.TV, a Web site that produces 12 niche-interest talk shows per week. For every show, Gramo acts as executive producer, director, cameraman, audio tech and set designer. Some nights he produces three complete shows from his office in the Mid-Wilshire area, and he has pumped out more than 150 hours of programming since the siteâ€™s debut in October.
â€œWhatâ€™s so great about this model,â€ said Gramo, â€œis that everything happens in this tiny 15-by-11-foot studio. Viewers from all over the world can ask questions live, directly to musicians, filmmakers or anyone else theyâ€™re a big fan of. Itâ€™s 100 percent direct communication and personal exchange.â€
The weekly grid includes â€œLoveStream,â€ a show about dating; â€œThought Balloonâ€ for fans of comic books; â€œFilm Nutâ€ for cinephiles; and â€œCoin-Op TVâ€ for the video game crowd. For every episode, the volunteer host books a guest relevant to the subject matter and audience.
The networkâ€™s name comes from â€œstream of consciousness,â€ the concept in psychology of how thoughts flow through the mind. Shows try to duplicate the process on video by allowing instant messages and Internet posts to influence the conversation between host and guest.
While every episode has an agenda, â€œthereâ€™s so much interactivity, weâ€™ll ditch the show schedule to cater to the people watching,â€ Gramo said.
To keep shows from veering into chaos, the network has created a new position called the chat tech or â€œIM girl,â€ since cute females seem to work best. The IM girl culls incoming messages and puts relevant ones on a monitor seen by the on-air talent.
Of course, when he canâ€™t recruit a young woman, Gramo covers the chat tech job himself.
Audiences for the live Webcasts are tiny â€“ anywhere from 50 to 1,500 people. But the numbers grow when shows are archived for download. One episode of The Bloodstream, a show about heavy metal and Goth culture, has been downloaded more than 1 million times.
By July, Gramo estimates heâ€™ll have 20 shows in production, the maximum for current space. When the shows fill up with sponsorships and advertisers, he expects to reach profitability and move into a warehouse where he can broadcast live 24/7.
But this huge volume of programming looms as a major obstacle to the fledgling Internet TV industry, including TheStream.TV.
â€œSome of itâ€™s funny, some of itâ€™s stupid, some of itâ€™s classic. But the problem is finding the good stuff,â€ writes Mark Glaser, host of the PBS-sponsored blog MediaShift. â€œWhen it comes to the vast wasteland of 500-channel TV, at least we have the army of TV critics to help shepherd us to the good stuff.â€
So far, advertising provides the revenue stream for TheStream, mostly in the form of sole sponsorships for companies interested in reaching a tightly targeted audience. The network also accepts pre-roll video ads.
With the move to the warehouse, Gramo said heâ€™ll start hiring employees.
â€œThe challenge is how to cater to thousands of live viewers,â€ he said, referring to the torrent of instant messages a show could generate. â€œIâ€™m working to develop a database-driven Flash capability and a staff of people to process this flood of information coming in.â€
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