NEW YORK -- ESPN fans are likely to tune into the sports network each day without knowing what those four letters stand for. Glenn Beck says he wouldn't mind the same thing happening with his new web-only TV network, GBTV.
"I argued that the network shouldn't be called GBTV, because I don't want it about me," Beck said Tuesday, shortly after wrapping up his second day there. "I want it bigger than me. It's got to be bigger than me."
During a studio tour with reporters, Beck spoke at length about the future of GBTV, which has already brought in 230,000 paying subscribers. Soon, the conservative radio host and former Fox News star hopes to roll out more interactive features for "The Glenn Beck Program," which airs daily from 5 to 7 p.m. He boasted of eventually offering high-quality programming across the network, in the vein of HBO. Beck said he also plans to build a studio and entertainment center in Dallas, where he will soon be moving.
But the people dropping $9.95 a month to subscribe to GBTV want to watch Beck. He has a devoted following, evident during his "Restoring Honor" rally last year in Washington, D.C., and Tuesday, as guests in the studio audience offered him books and gifts after the show. For the GBTV experiment to work, Beck needs to first satisfy the hardcore fans now willing to shut off Fox News at 5 p.m to switch to his network.
Before rolling out an ambitious programming block or putting the famed chalkboard in a moving truck and setting off to Texas, the priority for Beck is to produce a strong television show each day from New York -- one that people might be willing to be pay for.
"My first goal," Beck said, "was to put on the show and make sure everybody says, 'Oh, it's not a webcast.'" That point was echoed by Chris Balfe, president of Beck's Mercury Radio Arts. Balfe cut in to say that their aim is to "deliver television over the Internet, not Internet television."
At this point, Beck says he's fine with a few first-week kinks, like the teleprompter cutting out yesterday before comedian Brian Sack delivered a punch line. He's happy just to "get in the ballpark" early on with established networks like Fox News and CNN.
"We're pushing the envelope and doing things that we shouldn't be doing right now," Beck said. "We have a lot to work out. Give us six months and we'll change the way it's consumed."
Beck vowed he would shake things up once viewers are comfortable watching his show on a laptop or iPad. He doesn't want the program to be a passive experience.
If viewers are unsure about a topic Beck is discussing on the show -- for instance, QE3, a potential third round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve -- they might be able to click words on the on-screen chalkboard to open up windows offering additional information. Viewers could also then find past Beck monologues on QE3, ranging from the most basic explanation to more advanced discussion allowing them to "go past the show."
Beck also plans to start using Skype during the show to increase viewer interaction.
"We just want people to be comfortable and say, 'I know what this is,'" Beck said, referring to the network's early focus. "Then we'll introduce piece by piece the different things that say, 'Oh wait, this is something entirely different. This is not television.'"
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