Q&A with founder Bill Mobley
Q: There’s a lot of change going on in the TV industry right now. Why do you think Freecast is so well positioned to take advantage of it?
A: That’s a really great question because it’s our position that everyone is starting to get away from that ground level, hard-wired infrastructure and they’re realizing the value of digitizing their legacy TV assets and that pretty soon everything from Seinfeld to Gilligan’s Island, is probably going to be freely available for consumers. And that it’s all going to make financial sense, because with the new types of advertising models that are available via OTT, you can really target the consumer.
I also believe that consumers really want multiple levels. I think you’re going to have premium content that people will pay for. Disney, for example, obviously has a great offering for kids and ESPN for sports and I think people are still going to want to pay for that type of content, but they’re also going to want free programming as well.
What we’ve done is to aggregate all of those a la carte offerings—both paid and free— that consumers have access to and put them into a single program guide. What’s more, we’re giving consumers access to all of the free content that’s out there—and there is a lot of free content out there, premium content that doesn’t live on the Big Three apps—and we’re giving consumers an easy way to access that type of content because what we’ve found is that many of them are unaware of how much free TV is actually out there.
Q: What exactly do consumers get when they buy a FreeCast subscription?
A: Our license partners and even our own retail brand is powered by our SmartGuide Technology which is available online right now. SmartGuide is also going to be at the center of a cord-cutting kit that we’re rolling out that will be available in big box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. We are projecting we will sell anywhere from 10 to 15 million of them over the next 18 months. In the box that consumers take home from the store, there will be an HD antenna so they can get over the air broadcasts in HD, they will get our book, which is a fully detailed guide to cord cutting, and they’ll get a 1 year subscription to our SmartGuide. Kind of like that guide button with cable TV, our service is designed to show you all of your options for watching everything online: free content, content from the subscriptions you already have, and even a feature that seeks out the best prices for pay-per-view content, all in a familiar guide interface.
Q. Where does the guide live and how do I get it?
The guide lives online, on any smartphone, tablet, or computer browser. We’ve made it simple too: when you buy the cord-cutting kit, you get a unique code, sort of like what Microsoft does with their software, and when you enter that code at our website, it automatically detects your devices and downloads the app.
It will then ask you to enter the subscription services you already have and will give you the opportunity to sign up for them. Then it functions like a regular program guide. If you want to watch a comedy, it will show you the comedies it has access to.
People will still have to pay for services like Netflix and Hulu independently, but we are hoping that one day soon we’ll be able to offer a single payment option, that you’ll be able to come in and just click on the services you want and we’ll be able to generate a single bill for you, so you understand exactly how much you are paying for television each month.
That’s the beauty of a la carte services, you can pay as much or as little as you want, the choice is yours.
Q: What is Freecast’s business model?
Our service costs $24.99 a year; we sell it direct, online and via retail, and also partner with other companies who have large user bases and want to offer a co-branded or while label platform as part of their own offering.
And as a media manager, whether customers are watching ad-supported free content, subscribing to the well-known SVOD libaries, or making pay-per-view purchases, we earn a percentage on all of those activities, because we enabled those eyeballs or those purchases, we enabled the mechanics for those customers to see those ads.
Today’s advertising on the internet is very targeted. If I was planning to go camping this weekend and I’ve been looking at tents, suddenly I’ll start seeing ads for Cabela’s Outdoor World which is a well-known retailer.
With DAI, or dynamic ad insertion, you can bring that same experience to television. The value proposition to the consumers is less obtrusive, because the ads are friendly, they’re for products the viewer is interested in, and it becomes a native part of the content, so it’s not impacted by ad-blockers or compatibility problems across devices.
But if they don’t want to see ads at all, they can certainly pay to eliminate ads, which is a whole business model in itself. And we like every preference, we’re as neutral as Switzerland in that—we don’t steer customers towards what benefits is, you pick what you want, the way you want to get your content, and we’ll provide it for you.
With DAI, we can get the ads to consumers in close to real time. Because what happens is, the ads are available in just milliseconds. The decision tree that happens in the DAI model happens quickly and so we can enable something close to real time ad decisioning.
Q: What else sets Freecast apart for advertisers?
We have a natural advantage as an aggregator. There’s so many different content sources out there now, it’s not like the Nielsen days, now everyone’s only got their own small piece of the puzzle. We’re one of the few players out there that are able to put the pieces of that puzzle together, because we can follow consumers as they move between networks and content providers.
If you watch The Voice on NBC’s website, then you watch Blue Bloods on CBS All Access, and then you watch the Braves and Padres game via Yahoo Live, we’ve got that complete picture, and those three companies don’t.
We also know more about the viewer than those providers do, because we can be associated it with their profile data: detailed demographics and location. That’s a huge leap forward from what most advertisers are used to having available, which can sometimes be as little as a DMA and an age range.
We’re following you across the top side, as you move from service to service. So our advertising capability is much greater than somebody who’s just in-network, who is only seeing their own traffic. We see all crossover network traffic, which they don’t.
So we have a profile already built into your subscription. And we know what your preferences are. And we know that you like comedies and we know what networks you visit the most. And that is really what sets us apart, because those percentages and that type of detailed consumer data is not available anywhere else.