Monday, March 24, 2008
Interview with Bryan Biniak, Jacked
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
As the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament goes into its second week, we though it would be interesting to talk to Jacked (www.jacked.com), a Los Angeles company which has created a sports focused, informational "second screen" that provides real-time information on sports events. The firm has recently inked notable deals with KCAL 9 and Carl's Jr. to provide information for the Lakers, and also has a number of other partnerships with local broadcasters, sports teams, and others to provide their information services across a number of web sites. We spoke with Bryan Biniak, the firm's CEO. (Photo courtesy of Martin Schaedel)
For those not familiar with Jacked, describe your service?
Bryan Biniak: What we've done is we have created a "web top" over broadcast media. What that translates to, is we've created a browser-based, second screen for television. The goal is to create the de-facto standard for a second screen--just as Microsoft has ended up creating--at least to date--the standard Internet browser with Internet Explorer, and Google has created the standard for search. There is a growing percentage of the population that -- while they are watching television -- are on a second screen doing things related to what they are watching on the broadcast. That second screen could be a PC or a mobile device, but in all cases it's the television which has the theatrical component, and the second screen that has the communication and content pieces of the experience.
It's interesting--the number one thing people do when they watch television is they talk to other people about what they are watching, at the same time. The second most popular thing is they instant message each other about the program. The third is email, and from there it is looking up things related to what they are watching. If they're watching something like the Oscar's or the Emmy Awards, they might be on IMDB. If they're watching sports, they might be looking up stats, or reading news, or looking at their fantasy sports data. When they're watching a reality show like American Idol, they may be looking up information on someone's official site, or Perez Hilton, or TMZ. There are even people publishing about what they're watching with other people--on their blogs, with a podcast, or other kinds of publishing mechanisms. The challenge right now is there is no standard interface for that--no complimentary interface--for people to effectively create their own interactive television experience. They've been leveraging their devices, sites, and hacking together their own experience.
2005 was the first year that the majority of PCs sold to consumers were laptops. Now, you are seeing homes where each individual has a laptop, and you might have two or three laptops connected through broadband, and more importantly wireless. You also have broadband Internet access through mobile devices, which is not just texting, and that is really ramping up engagement. What consumers like about the second screen, is that they control that--that's their space. I had spoken at a conference for David Wertheimer at the Center for Entertainment Technology at USC. They had been doing all this research on multi-tasking consumers, because people were concerned that if people were not watching ads, they would destroy broadcast television. What the found on the study, which was focused on college students, was that 100% of them had a laptop; 100% of people watched TV with their laptop; and 100% of the people who had laptops while watching TV were doing things related to what they were watching. Then, they asked--who would wanted an experience where someone has combined a laptop with a television into one, and how many wanted something like that? Zero. Zero percent of people. Why would they want to do that? They want to be able to see what they want to see, what they want to share, and to talk about it--and they don't want to be restricted. It's a purely democratic experience on the second screen. They don't want a platform where someone might not allow content that is inconsistent with the creator of the show, or the producer of the show, which a brand doesn't like, or is inconsistent with what advertisers want. That doesn't mean consumers don't want it, they just aren't interested in the experience being controlled by the brand or show.
So they don't want to be captive?
Bryan Biniak: They want complete, fluid freedom. So we started building this out, and launched with every NFL football game, every NCAA team, covering all the NBA games, and the NHL. We're also going to be launching support for all the major league baseball teams soon. It's a complete, full experience, and consumers have the ability to customize just what they want, it's not a one-size fits all experience. One of the big challenges of television is that people creating broadcasts now have to take a middle of the road approach. If the Lakers are playing the Celtics, or even more specifically if the Lakers are playing the Clippers, you want to appeal to both the Clippers and the Lakers fans, and everyone else watching the game. You're going to take a middle-of-the-road tone in your broadcast. But, Lakers want to hear other Laker's fans call the game. The Clippers fans want it completely biased and to enjoy it with fellow fans. That's why you saw that when Chick Hern was calling Laker's games, people would turn down whoever had coverage of the Laker's game on TV, and listened to him instead. He became the primary person who spoke to the audience, and owned that relationship with the audience. Even though someone might have spent $100 million on broadcast rights, they just listened to him and kept watching.
We are in the process of developing our deck. We've got widgets, photos, videos, news, statistics, chat, and trivia, and are just continuing to roll out applications. We've also started to build out a sandbox for other companies, such as Airplay and Exponentia to publish applications into our sports top. In addition, we are able to take our rich internet applications and put them on other people's sites, along with widgets and content.
Can you talk about the deal you have with KCAL?
Bryan Biniak: If you watch the KCAL Laker's game, you are going to hear the callouts to go to KCAL9.com, in pregame, postgame, and on Sports Central talking about the experience. It's been great, because we packaged this up and sold a sponsorship with Carl's Junior, as an integrated experience. It's a web plus broadcast product, that is priced as a broadcast product. The biggest challenge for a lot of TV networks, is that they are challenged by the fact that--Jeff Zucker at NBC talks about this all the time--that they get dollars on television and just pennies on the web. Until such time as they have parity, they must protect their television investment. That's because they have advertising base revenue worth something like 70 to 80 billion on television, which is tied to viewership. If that viewership goes away, you don't make it up on web sites. You can never make up for its on websites, not anytime soon. If you look at the total aggregate number that is advertising on a web, it's a third of that--maybe. But, when you look at the ad dollars, they are going to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. They're not going to NBC, ABC, or CBS. The future of those organizations--based upon economics--is not taking shows and putting them somewhere else like YouTube, which just expedites the degradation of their advertising base--that advertising is what pays for the majority of the web sites they create, which are really just marketing sites. Most of those sites are not profitable.
What's the business model behind this--sponsorships like the one with Carl's Jr.?
Bryan Biniak: Jacked also becomes the hub for all the programs, all the Major League and NCAA sports we cover. If you go to KCAL, they only cover Laker's games, and you'll see it's a co-branded experience. It's co-branded with the Jacked brand, but we also have links back to Jacked for programming they don't cover. So what you end up with is a network of sites, that are interconnected, and where sponsorship is the primary driver. There will be title sponsorships, but there will also be secondary sponsorships--for example, someone who wants to sponsor all the home runs at the Dodgers, and we'll also sell CPM advertising. That's not for individual sites, but also for the network of sites we're rolling out through our partners. It's a great value for them. Instead of selling what normally might be a $10,000-$15,000 sponsorship on a web site, they're talking about mid six figures for an integrated experience. Frankly, most stations don't have the resources to differentiate their local station websites. If you look around the country, they basically look all the same. They're competing against the Google News, Yahoo News, MSN News, and all these other sites who live or die by the web. So we have the KCAL relationship, and if you go to Vs. you'll see we're on Vs.--which is Comcast--for the NHL. We have also finished the ACC championship on ACC.com, and you'll see us rolling out publicly with some professional teams and leagues over the next few months. There's also more to come on the broadcaster side.
Where are you getting all the sports information -- I imagine this is a fairly data intensive things for all the teams and leages you cover?
Bryan Biniak: It's an automated system. That's the value point of this. We've got a searchcasting engine so we're able to gather information about the broadcast before it starts. We get feeds during the broadcast and are able to extract our own data about the broadcast, using keyword and content metadata. We're pulling content in real time from Getty, statistics, AP feeds, and from others. It was designed to effectively create its own engaging layer and own web site. Another big thing we've rolled out is our own ad product, and we're able to serve up standard IAB leaderboard and buttons with our own proprietary class of widgets. Where it gets really interesting is we can schedule -- on a time basis, say every 15 minutes for thirty seconds you can have an ad appear; or, you can put up an ad every time someone hits a home run, and on a geography basis. For example, for people who are in the 90405 zip code and put up a Kramer Honda ad, and in Anaheim we can pull up from a local Anaheim dealership. We can also leverage our searchcasting tie to make it synchronize with ads on broadcast. That means we can make it consistent between our webtop--for example, we can also show a Verizon ad when a Verizon ad gets show on the broadcast, or we can place a counter ad--for example, an AT&T ad.
It looks like--based on the partners you have signed--the broadcast folks seem to buy into this, and understand your vision.
Bryan Biniak: We're really lucky. There were a couple of things I knew going into this. I knew that to try to integrate this into TV station or satellite company infrastructure, in any way, was a deal breaker. I knew if I had to do licenses with everyone, it would be a deal brearker. I know that if we had to integrate into set top boxes, it would be a problem. If we had to require consumers to buy hardware, or even if we forced them to download software, that was a barrier to entry. There is no barrier of entry for us, based on the technology we've create and the platform we've created. When I show them that all they have to do is give me a url, or I can giv eyou a URL, and here's ten lines of code--you're done. It's up on the website, and okay, here's what it is going to cost you--and we go into partnership. It will be a long term partnership, and our success will be your success, and vice versa. if someone goes in and says--we believe enough in the upside of this product to not have to try to shake them down on the front end, it works pretty well--especially at this time. Advertising revenue is going away from networks and TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers, and going into another universe. If they're able to leverage the key differentiation they have--which is the broadcast medium--and instead of looking at that asset as old luggage that has to be dragged along, they can instead look at it as a positive strength and key differentiator. They can leverage what they have to compete against the entities that are taking away their ad dollars--the number one being Google. Google does not have that relationship, and that product, and that's something they can do that Google cannot do.
It seems you've had lots of traction with this in the sports area. Any thought on taking this to other broadcast content?
Bryan Biniak: Yes, that's the plan. The good news is we know for a fact that people are using two screens when they are watching the news, reality programs, watching awards shows like the Emmys, Oscars, and Grammies, and edutainment shows like the Food Network, Discovery, or History Channel. There's a broad range of opportunities we have with this.