Next time you’re getting a pedicure, after you pick what color polish you want, look up at the screen on the wall and you might be watching the new Atmosphere Entertainment channel.
There won’t be any sound. Atmosphere creates and curates channels to play on screens in 25,000 businesses ranging from bars, restaurants and auto repair shops to gyms, nail salons and doctors offices -- places where programming will be seen and not heard.
Atmosphere Entertainment is the third live streaming channel the company has created, following Atmosphere News and Atmosphere Sports. CEO Leo Resig told Broadcasting+Cable that live channels offering business news, weather and health and well-being information are on the way.
The live channels, constantly updated, join about 60 static channels filled with viral videos from sites including YouTube that Atmosphere licenses directly from their creators. The channels also include Red Bull TV, The Bob Ross Channel and World Poker Tour.
“We roll out a new channel every two to four weeks. There’s no exact cadence to it. We look at the data behind viewership of certain channels,” Resig said.
Channels are designed for the type of business they’re likely to appear in. The clientele for nail salons is mostly women, many of whom are interested in movies, TV shows and celebrity news.
“If we have a great idea for a channel we launch it. If it falls flat, we’ll put our tail between our legs and quietly remove the channel and replace it with a new one,” he said.
Atmosphere doesn’t charge businesses for its channels. It generates revenue from selling advertising that’s based on the type of business, location, time of day, clientele and other factors.
Like the programming, advertising on Atmosphere has to work with the sound off.
“We work with our advertisers to create proven, effective ad units that are very text heavy and sometimes they're just static,” Resig said. “We have quite a few motion graphic designers who work with the agency or the brand directly.”
Big advertisers include Nestle and Burger King, which recently ran a simple 30-second spot that was a static picture of a new product it was launching. Some ads are pictures or videos framed with writing in an L-shaped box on screen. Some ads enable viewers to get more information about a product by scanning a QR code.
About 50% of Atmosphere viewers are in bars and restaurants, so it is popular with beer and spirit marketers like AB InBev.
For Brown-Forman’s Old Forester, Atmosphere produced a turtle race that took over all the channels running in bars for four minutes. “It was our first network takeover,” Resig said. “It was ridiculous and amazing. It speaks to the power of the networks we’re creating that we can cut away to live events.”
Atmosphere channels run in Meineke car repair shops and in Hooters restaurants. Hooters has an annual beauty pageant that appears on YouTube. This year, the pageant was broadcast to Hooters restaurants on one of Atmosphere’s channels.
The channels are provisioned over broadband using a specially outfitted Apple TV box that will only play Atmosphere channels. Through its boxes, Atmosphere knows what’s being shown in establishments. It uses measurement company Epicenter to estimate how many viewers it gets for ad buyers.
Resig said Atmosphere’s networks reach 65 million people per month. “We’re on pace to pretty much double our network size by the end of the year at which time we’ll be reaching well over 100 million people a month. That’s some real scale in the advertising world,” he said.
Resig and his brother John started TheChive.com, a website that aggregated viral photos and videos in 2008. After it became popular, the brothers were sitting in a bar. Judge Judy was playing on one screen. SportsCenter was no other. A basketball game was on another. They worked with Roku to create a TV channel called Chive TV. The solicited bar owners asking if they wanted family-friendly viral videos on their screens. “A thousand people emailed us saying we’d love to have this in our business, and that’s how we started,” he said. Chive TV remains Atmosphere’s most popular channel. “It’s really good. It's hard to stop watching it,” he said.
Atmosphere has gone through three rounds of funding, raising $140 million, valuing the company at just under $1 billion, Resig said. The company has 450 full-time employees, most at its headquarters in Austin, Texas. It also has ad sales offices in New York. Los Angeles and Chicago.
Resig wouldn’t disclose how much the company makes, but said revenue tripled last year as businesses came back from the pandemic. He said he expects revenue to triple again this year.
With Atmosphere Entertainment on the air, Resig has plans to launch three more live channels over the next two months. Atmosphere will have its version of a Bloomberg or CNBC type business news channel, followed by a weather channel. “Weather affects everyone,” he said. “We’ll have some fun with that channel. We’ll do a lot of viral weather videos.”
Finally there will be a channel with health and wellness content. There are hundreds of thousands of media office waiting rooms that have TVs and subpar content, he noted.
The channels are updated 24/7 by a staff of about 40 in-house editors. It licenses data feeds for sports scores and weather forecasts, and licenses pictures and video from the AP, Getty Image and other sources. It also licenses material directly from sports leagues.
Atmosphere is starting to make a push into airports. Its first large airport client is in Salt Lake City. It is also looking to grow internationally, with 2,000 international locations, mostly in Canada and the U.K. The company just added 300 locations with a gym chain in Norway, Resig said.
With no audio, “you don’t need to speak English to enjoy most of our channels,” he said. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.