Byron Allen, founder and CEO of Allen Media Group, offered the keynote during the Next TV Summit at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills. Interviewed by Tim Hanlon, founder and CEO of The Vertere Group, Allen spoke about his start in television as a teen, his shift to industry titan, and how he sees the TV landscape today.
The interview was part of Broadcasting + Cable/Multichannel News/NextTV's LA TV Week.
Allen spoke of moving to Los Angeles as a child, his mother talking her way into work at NBC, and getting his start in comedy. Performances as a teen at the Comedy Store led to working on the writing team of Jimmie Walker, star of Good Times, with the likes of David Letterman and Jay Leno.
“I learned how to write jokes and create funny,” he said.
A co-host role on Real People, still in his teen years, followed. “It gave birth to everything you see and know about reality television,” said an ebullient Allen of the NBC unscripted show.
Allen shared how he grew to see the industry as “business show” more than show business in his shift from talent to ownership. “If you learn the business you can do as many shows as you want,” he said.
Still, selling syndicated shows to stations in the early days was a grind. “There were days I didn’t eat,” he said. “There were days they turned off my phone.”
Slowly, stations and advertisers got on board. “Dialing and smiling, smiling and dialing,” is how Allen recalled it.
Allen’s portfolio includes Entertainment Studios, The Weather Channel, TV stations and regional sports networks. He spoke of gobbling up URLs with a .tv suffix years back, including comedy.tv, cars.tv and pets.tv, and still sees the digital landscape as "a huge opportunity."
Allen singled out Local Now, essentially a throw-in in the Weather Channel acquisition, as “one of the greatest gifts ever from the digital gods.” He mentioned investing $100 million of his own capital “to reposition the asset” and make it AVOD, not SVOD.
“It is growing beyond my wildest imagination,” said Allen.
With several decades of television experience under his belt, Allen said the business continues to offer “an enormous untapped space,” with lots of revenue potential for savvy operators. ■
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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