Sofa Real: New Old Television
Can new technology married to old advertising rebirth local television?
Local news notwithstanding, local television has been long dead. The expense of production pushed the industry to embrace economies of scale afforded by the now decades-old network model.
The popularity of online video, the advent of low cost video production tools, and faltering network ratings create an opportunity. Audiences no longer rely solely on television for national culture or current events. Viral videos demonstrate the appetite for the quirky and colorful. Air time and bandwidth are, in fact, quite inexpensive. Could a hybrid of web-based and broadcast-based video combined with decades-old advertising models bring back local television?
Sofa Real was created to answer this question. The idea was to broadcast a talk show to a local TV and online audience about their local area, deeply involving local sponsors. The show had no fixed set — only a traveling sofa. It was to incorporate advertising rather than segregate it — much like brands once sponsored entire programs and TV hosts once showcased products in their shows. If successful, we would franchise Sofa Real to midsize media markets.
The work here was that of any startup: balancing day jobs with creating business plans, securing financing, producing enough of a product to sell the concept, making sales, networking, etc. I was a principal of the company as well as on-air talent. Though I did not hatch the show idea, I did formulate the business plan inspired by a documentary of local television in Chicago.
While the idea is solid, we were unable to convince local sponsors of the opportunity. Years of exposure to traditional media skewed expectations, complicating receptiveness to the pitch. The concept was too small for large advertisers but too much of a gamble for smaller advertisers long accustomed to media channels other than broadcast — whether on-air or online.