Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Interview with Chris Wyatt, Youtoo TV
How do you create and test a product which takes videos, photos, and other information--in real time--and broadcasts that to a television network? In the case of Chris Wyatt, CEO of Dallas-based Youtoo (www.youtoo.com), you buy an entire cable network, and develop your software and products around it. Wyatt--a serial entrepreneur who last built and sold GodTube.com to Salem Communications--told us the story behind how his company is developing the technology to connect the online world of the web and mobile, and plumbing it into live, television updates, and how the whole cable network ownership was just a way to test and demonstrate the idea. Youtoo is backed by a number of investors, including Mark Burnett, the reality show producer who created the whole reality show industry via his shows Survivor, The Apprentice, The Voice, and many others.
What is Youtoo?
Chris Wyatt: Youtoo is a technology company which has been in stealth mode for the last four years. What we do, is we have developed the first, interactive television system that bridges a mobile phone, the web, and television. What we did in Q4 of last year, is we launched Youtoo TV and Youtoo.com, as well as the Youtoo app. If you're in one of 177 television markets, you can find us as a cable channel as Youtoo TV, 24/7. At the same time, we have a social network companion on mobile phones, including Android and iPhone. We are the world's first social television network, where, from the web, or mobile, you can record broadcast quality video, which is aired on television within minutes. We can not only post video to television, but also five other types of data sets, including voice, text, and more. With all of that said, we didn't design the software and system to make Youtoo.com and Youtoo TV a cable network and social network, what we did, is we did it as a test bed and development site, so that we could license the technology on a private label basis to large, major broadcasters, as well as cable networks and local broadcasters.
What was the inspiration behind Youtoo?
Chris Wyatt: My background is that I'm a former network television executive out of Hollywood, notably for CBS, and spend thousands of hours on programming daytime and reality shows for CBS. I was hired in 1997 as part of a five man startup team which was one of the first social networks, Communities.com, when I left Hollywood to find the interaction of TV and the Internet. Communities.com reached a 2 billion valuation and had a successful exit. That was a journey that took sixteen years. I moved to Texas in 2006, and wanted to try to get back to television. I launched by second, direct-to-consumer social network, Godtube, which was called the Christian answer to YouTube. We were the media darling of Wall Street, and after 4 months we raised $30M at a valuation of $180M dollars, and had a huge successful exit. I sold me interest in that company shortly after that, and bought two cable television networks, which is how we got started. So, it took sixteen years to get to today, with the whole idea of creating interactive television and combining it with a social network.
Wasn't it expensive to buy a cable network, and why buy your own network?
Chris Wyatt: We knew that there was no way that any network would let a technology company come into the back end of their broadcast infrastructure, and test in a live environment. Very much like a technology company buys servers and mobile phones to develop their product, we had to buy a platform to develop ours. In this case, we had to buy a television network to develop the technology, because no one in their right mind with their network would let us develop and test our product. Now, we're meeting with all of the major networks, and all the major cable networks, and we're over run with customers and trying to keep up. There are two dozen shows in the fall which will be using our technology, so that they can put people on TV and have them interact with the program. Every day on Youtoo TV, we are putting 300 to 500 people on television. There's now literally 90,000 user videos on television, and we've seen close to 400,00 social interactions on television, whether that it through a tweet or text to television, a pictures on television, or a text message scrolling on the bottom of the screen, or a feature of their profile pictures form MySpace or YouTube. To get to that point, we had to have a network so that we could create this software and develop it and have it function, and so that we could show it to companies to sell it.
It really sounds like you are trying to bridge the world of the Internet and television?
Chris Wyatt: This has been a sixteen year journey for you, and I've always sat at the intersection of television and the Internet. This is the future of television, which is what the tagline of the company was going to be. Unfortunately, another company took that, but the best way to describe it, is when I show Mark Burnett the technology, he told me "this is obvious." He meant, this was the obvious next evolution in the technology, and someone had to do it. There had to be that one person, one company would could put both Silicon Valley and Hollywood under one roof, and put it together.
What's the future of your cable TV network?
Chris Wyatt: Now that we've developed the technology, we're actually looking to divest or sell it. It was never our goal to run a television network in parallel. Right now, I'm sitting in the lobby of talk shows and their offices, and talking about bringing this technology into their shows. Our goal has always been to license this, and we want to not only be platform agnostic but broadcaster agnostic. We did not buy a cable network to run a cable business. What we want to be, is platform agnostic, broadcast agnostic, and work whether you're on Android, iOS, or Microsoft, or if you're a local broadcast station, cable station, or major network. We're an application services provider, and technology services is what we're in business to do.
That's why you see we recently released on Facebook. Now, you can be on TV from inside Facebook. What that means, is you can record your broadcast quality video right there, and get to television from Facebook. In the fall, there are about two dozen shows that will be using our technology inside Facebook as a private label service. You will not see Powered by Youtoo TV. You'll be able to try out for a reality show from the convenience of your home, enter singing and talent competitions. We'll be making an announcement about that very soon. If you think about it, we give a sports network can have a post-game wrap-up show, where you can be the armchair quarterback. After a presidential debate, you can give instant feedback, and provide a people meter much like Nielsen, or an applause meter where you can see how candidates are doing. For a reality show, you can let speakers say what they are actually thinking about and have live voting. We've got one network signed up, who has yet to announce this, with a dating program, where people can submit the videos they make on their computer, mobile device, or Facebook, and submit it to be on the show. Think of a millionaire matchmaker where you can submit a 30 second video and maybe get a date. That's what we're seeing right now.