Byron Allen, Founder and CEO of Allen Media Group, delivered the keynote address at 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 early days in television as a teenager, his rise to being a titan of the industry, and how he sees the television landscape today.
The interview was part of Broadcast + Cable/Multichannel News/NextTV LA TV Week.
Allen has talked about moving to Los Angeles as a child, his mother has talked about working at NBC and getting into comedy. Teenage performances at the Comedy Store led him to work on the writing staff of Jimmie Walker, star of Good timewith people like David Letterman and Jay Leno.
“I learned to write jokes and create funny ones,” he said.
A role of co-host on real people, still a teenager, followed. “It gave birth to everything you see and know about reality TV,” said an exuberant Allen of NBC’s unscripted show.
Allen shared how he grew to see the industry as a “business show” more than a show in his journey from talent to ownership. “If you learn the craft, you can do as many shows as you want,” he said.
Still, selling syndicated shows to stations at first was a chore. “There were days when I didn’t eat,” he says. “There were days when they turned off my phone.”
Slowly, stations and announcers got on board. “Dial and smile, smile and compose” is how Allen remembered it.
Allen’s portfolio includes entertainment studios, The Weather Channel, television stations and regional sports networks. He spoke of gobbling up URLs with a .tv suffix years ago, including comedie.tv, cars.tv and pets.tv, and still sees the digital landscape as “a huge opportunity”.
Allen called Local Now, essentially a twist in the Weather Channel acquisition, “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’s beyond my wildest imagination,” Allen said.
With decades of television experience under its belt, Allen said the company continues to offer “huge untapped space,” with great revenue potential for savvy operators. ■