With the advent of the internet, the lines between various media have been blurring. As with radio and print, television has also seen the rise of a web-based platform for broadcasting. The low cost and ease of deployment has provided an opportunity for content providers previously excluded from television broadcasting to create their own channels and programs for broadcast via the internet.
A recent campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo seeks to provide a co-op for those seeking to break into this new medium. The Multo Media Co-Op has a mission to create a sustainable broadcast business model for independent news and content makers, in an international effort. The campaign is seeking to raise $35,000 by February.
The Multo Media Co-Op is the brainchild of Melissa Ulto, a multidisciplinary artist who currently resides in New York, working professionally as a livestreaming expert, web developer, filmmaker, designer, and journalist. She balances art and commerce with social justice; her work on mobile livestreaming and her activist documentary career come together in MULTO: a streaming broadcast programming platform for independent media channels. She has worked on the bleeding edge of video technologies as artist and developer since the mid 90s. Ms. Ulto spoke with me earlier this week to discuss her effort.
Is this an extension of your own business, or something broader? Perhaps a community of content providers and producers?
My goal is to have an entity that can launch people’s content. To have that ability to say “You can do this. I will help set this up for you, this will be a way for you to get into this without a huge, huge front end cost. We’ll do this together as a group, and for the first year, or 6 months, we’ll be able to track, on a very granular method, for profit sharing or for views: how long somebody views something, how many people look at a particular sub-channel. Or if we build into it some sort of interactivity, how many people use that?”
I know so many independent filmmakers, independent content makers, artists… even people who make games. What I tell people is that this platform is so pliable, and so customizable: to the business model, the experience you wish to provide. This is doable.
For example, one person I know runs a talent search agency. He’s planning to do a 10-city tour. He wants to be able to do a channel to live stream concerts, not only so people can, locally, view it, but so that people can Pay-Per-View it, all over the world. Not only can they do this, they can sell merchandise, within particular windows of time, if someone wants to buy a T-shirt, or some other items.
I can help with content, I can help get this going, but what I’d really like to see is for people to take this and make it their own. There’s so much amazing content out there that no one gets to see. I’d like to see record labels, I’d like to see actors, bands, filmmakers, anyone with something to say, something to sell, or something to show: they all should be on here.
Outside of donors, who else is involved in getting the Multo Media Co-Op off the ground?
I have a good friend, Jerry Caloroso at Streamotor, who has a platform I’m working with. He’s a really good resource, and a mentor and advisor for me. It’s mostly just me, there are a few developers I’m going to work with, once I raise the money. On the content end of things, I have a lot of different people who are interested.
You mention on the campaign description a number of business models you plan to support for IPTV channels. Which of these seem to have the most potential, in general, and specific to your Co-Op?
The subscription model is really a trial by fire model. That really tests your content; that really tests the engagement of your audience and the dedication of your niche. And the price point is minimal. Studies have shown that if you have a recurring fee on your banking or credit card statement of $4.99 or lower, that it is negligible and people will ignore it.
Some bank fees are more expensive than that.
Exactly. So if you are able to create a model that will sustain you, that you can grow in your niche, or even an impulse buy—at 99 cents—that will sustain you and allow you to continue to grow your audience. The subscription model really is the one that lets you know, and lets your audience know, that what you are doing is successful. It is a buy-in from your audience.
What do you see as the advantage of IPTV?
TV has a level of credibility that you don’t get on the internet. It’s like: “Ooh, it’s on TV, it must be important, it’s real!”
“People put a lot of money into it, so it must be worth something!”
Yeah: it’s crazy, but you have that elevation of credibility if you are on this. Of course, the ubiquity of this, on tablets, on cell phones, online, etc., etc. makes it even more attractive because what you see here, you can bring anywhere. BUT, you can have it full screen, on the big screen, at home. That’s a level of credibility that has only existed for a small group of people, with a lot of money and controlled the pipe.
You have all these people who have incredible content, but they still are wrapped up around the existing models. Like people who are artists are not necessarily business people. But to get them to understand that this would not be a huge expense, that this could be a sustainable business for them, to broadcast their content, to sell their content and to have an income off of their own content. It wouldn’t be like YouTube, where you have to reach a certain number of views before you get paid. I tell people, “why are you giving them money? Why don’t you think your content is good enough to be monetized?” Meanwhile YouTube is making a LOT of money off of their content.
The Indiegogo campaign goes until the end of February, and, depending on funding achieved, the latest resource projected to be launched is next August. What are your plans following this time frame?
The goal is to raise an amount, even if it’s not the full amount, to start this channel, to get the content out there. There will probably be a soft launch before there’s a full launch of the content that I do get out there, from the partners that I do get for a buy-in. And then after that, we’ll look and see what content works. So then the goal after that initial period will be to work with the content providers to get more people on the platform. The end goal will be, you can work with me as long as you want, but I really want you to have your own channel. I want to be the person who gets you on your feet, gets you going and who sends you on your way.
What is the big benefit proposition for those participating in the Multo Media Co-Op?
The benefit of working with me is having someone to guide you through the process, who’s an expert. Secondly, you have the ability to do this at a much power price point than if you were doing this on your own. And you don’t have to manage the technology, I’ve taken the ability to do this, and have made this like a Wordpress-type experience. When you have your own channel, you’re going to be able to configure it any way you like, it’s very easy to do. But we’re going to take care of the front loading. We’ll take care of loading the content, setting up any ecommerce necessary, and then we’re going to show you how to do things like content aggregation, how to use your social media, how to plan for your production.
So my goal with this is to allow people who start with me to stay with me if they want, but I want to graduate people; to be the Wizard of Oz and say “here: here’s your heart, here’s your brain, whatever tool you need, get on, do this now!”