Syncbak founder and CEO uses his smartphone to show some of the content offered on www.dwidio.com, the new personal entertainment webstreaming service the company plans to launch in January.
By Dave DeWitte
CEDAR RAPIDS—Syncbak, the provider of a platform for livestreaming TV, is poised to launch a web-based entertainment service for consumers that could push the television business model in a new direction.
In January, Syncbak plans to launch Dwidio.com, which will let consumers pick from a menu of ad-supported programs and watch on Internet-connected devices, including smartphones and tablets. The free service will offer more than 350 programming titles and a half-dozen stations.
“It’s really personalized TV,” said Jack Perry, Syncbak founder and CEO, during a Nov. 20 visit by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, to the company’s offices.
The content will include “MTV with veejays, the way it used to be,” and a mixture of program genres including cooking shows, dramas, fishing and hunting shows and mixed martial arts, according to Mr. Perry.
Syncbak’s eponymous webstreaming platform for TV stations was created in Cedar Rapids, and has the financial backing of some of the largest players in the broadcast industry, including CBS and the National Association of Broadcasters. It streams about 225 channels with technology that lowers the cost of processing time for TV programming data pushed from the cloud to viewers’ screens.
TV stations that want to be available to viewers on the web provide the source of revenues for Syncbak’s webstreaming service.
By contrast, Dwidio’s content mainly comes directly from the content originators and rights-holders. They – as well as Syncbak – will be reimbursed by ads interspersed throughout the programming. The ads will be considerably shorter than those on broadcast television – 15 seconds or less.
Syncbak has a curation team that finds compelling programming content on the Internet. Many discoveries are made during lunchtime viewing sessions.
“We go directly to the original rights holder – we say, ‘Come with us, we’ll treat you like a network would treat you, but from the very beginning we’ll be streaming,’” Mr. Perry said.
The model has advantages for content originators who want to make it big on the web, versus the traditional model of selling content rights to an entertainment distributor or cable network.
Because of the immediacy of the Internet, a simple remark from a big celebrity on social media could cause a program on Dwidio to go viral, much as they do on YouTube. That could trigger an avalanche of views, and bring ad revenues into the big leagues for the content originator.
“It’s the democratization of television,” Mr. Blum remarked.
Dwidio will be almost the opposite of the cable TV model, in which a cable TV company pays for the rights to transmit a bundle of programming, and a subscriber might pay $100 per month to get 200 channels, even though they spend 95 percent of their viewing time watching only a dozen of them.
“The focus on making subscribers pay is what’s thwarting innovation in this space,” Mr. Perry said. “Let the viewer decide.”
Dwidio could fit neatly into the trend toward cutting the (cable) cord and buying programming on a la carte basis, rather than buying programming bundles from cable companies. Mr. Perry sees that trend playing out now, but going further than many expect.
“I don’t think cord-cutting is going to be the way people think it will be,” Mr. Perry said in an interview. “I think a la carte will even disrupt the normal channels, so viewers would subscribe to individual programs and not individual channels – the disruption would occur even further upstream.”
Although quick to acknowledge that Dwidio won’t be launching with blockbuster network programs like “The Big Bang Theory,” Mr. Perry has confidence that Dwidio’s business model will build a quality base by tying revenue for content originators directly to the number of views.
Mr. Blum first heard about Syncbak during a tour earlier this year of Hiawatha-based Crystal Group, which manufactures the Syncbak boxes that TV stations use to webstream their content.
He was amazed at what the company has accomplished with a team of only 30 employees, many of them veterans of Mr. Perry’s last venture, TitanTV.
The launch of Dwidio could mean another 30-50 jobs at Syncbak, Mr. Perry said. The company, which was launched with a dozen investors, is now on its third round of financing.
Mr. Perry said he started Syncbak with the belief that he would spend a lot of time inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, lobbying for regulatory reform to get around rights-holding issues so that television programming could be placed on the Internet. Instead, the company developed a new technology for delivering television content to a broader audience.
“If the legislation happens where you can deliver TV on the Internet much like you can on cable TV and satellite, we switch, and in the meantime we’ve created another way of delivering programming,” Mr. Perry said. “And if it doesn’t, then we’ve created a new way to watch TV anyway.”
Syncbak is streaming 225 stations in 170 of the country’s 210 TV markets, including the largest, New York City, and some of the smallest, like Glendive, Montana.
Mr. Perry said the Corridor can expect to see more local stations on Syncbak in the future, specifically KCRG-TV 9 and KWWL-TV 7.
Syncbak has already received two buyout offers, Mr. Perry said, but he isn’t interested in selling until his company has achieved its mission: the personalization of television.