Shortly after our team had met Brian Greenspun, the Las Vegas Sun president and editor asked us if we could please work with him to figure out a way to inform those who didn’t want to be informed, or who didn’t even know they needed to be informed.
It was one of the noblest things our team had ever been asked to accomplish.
Our answer to his request debuted a few weeks ago. It’s called 702.tv.
I would love to tell you we planned it on purpose, but it was just a coincidence that 702.tv formally launched on the exact same day that analog TV died in the United States.
702.tv is currently a twice-weekly, 30-minute show on a local television station with repeat runs on the local 24-hour news cable station, along with downloadable versions for HD over IP (think AppleTV), segments on our constantly updated YouTube channel, and clips on all of our Greenspun websites here in Las Vegas.
We also are close — knock on wood — to finalizing some other interesting, national distribution deals, as well.
We called this project 702.tv because 702 is the area code for Las Vegas phone numbers. We also wanted the name of the program to be the show’s URL.
Along with its broadcast component, 702.tv also has a very cool website that allows viewers to watch the whole show, parts of it, browse by topic, search, etc.
The 702.tv site was designed by our team’s design genius, Todd Soligo.
Most of the front-end coding and CMS integration was handled by one of our team’s newest members, Elliot Burres — along with some assist from our team’s resident redhead, Levi Chronister, and Greenspun Interactive’s amazing utility infielder, Tim Thiele.
The video player for the new 702.tv site was developed/tweaked by our group’s Flash guru, Tyson Anderson.
And on the programming/back-end development side, all sorts of heavy lifting was done by Kevin Graves, with a lot of nice help from Kit Dallege.
On the QA side, new lasvegassun.com senior designer Danny DeBelius helped us find problems and fix errors.
There are/were more folks than this involved in the launch of 702.tv, including some amazing leadership from former Greenspun Interactive great guy Josh Williams. To see an even more in-depth list of those who helped develop 702.tv, please read this blog entry from project anchor Denise Spidle.
Though many of the elements of 702.tv are similar between the television show and the website, they were designed to be very different experiences that embrace the attributes of each medium.
From Day One, this project has been about building a cool broadband web experience that works the way the Internet really works.
On the television side, 702.tv runs on a station that is partially owned by the Greenspun family. It’s also the perfect TV home for this program.
This is probably stating the obvious, but the audience for this show is *not* journalists or journalism professors or journalism think tanks.
Between 6 and 8 p.m., VegasTV (KTUD, Channel 14) has some of the most-watched television shows in Las Vegas across the exact demographics that Brian Greenspun wanted us to try to inform. With “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “King of the Hill,” VegasTV is at or near the top in the 18-34/18-49/25-49 demographics every night — the exact demographic we are aiming for with 702.tv.
Currently, 702.tv runs at 10:30 p.m. on VegasTV/Channel 14 on Tuesday and Thursday nights. This fall, it will run daily, Monday-Friday. And because of some upcoming changes in programming at VegasTV, our lead-in for the fall will be reruns of “The Office,” which seems about as perfect as it could get.
It is all being marketed as a daily entertainment/lifestyle show/website, and I will try to go into all of our marketing efforts for 702.tv in an upcoming blog post that I hope I can get done in early July. I think the marketing for 702.tv is both aggressive and creative. And probably unlike anything another traditional newspaper company has ever done.
We often describe 702.tv as a bowl full of Skittles — very colorful, sweet, fun to consume, etc. Except that we’re going to sneak some vitamin-filled Skittles into the bowl. Our goal is to make you a little healthier (well, more knowledgeable) while you think you’re watching/eating candy.
The show is reverse-engineered from web videos we produce mostly for our company’s entertainment sites. On the Internet, the segments are longer and edgier. On television, segments typically run about 90 seconds.
The segments are light and featurey: cool people, cool clubs, cool restaurants, cool places to visit, cool houses or suites, cool shows, celebrity sightings/interviews, and a sports segment that doesn’t feel like most local sports segments at all.
Then at about halfway through the 702.tv show we give you four very quick minutes of news. Then, right back to the lighter stuff.
And all of this also includes a local weather forecast that could only be done in Las Vegas. (We knew we could never duplicate the resources that local television stations throw at the weather, so each episode of 702.tv has the weather forecast given by Strip performers. Yes, that includes the topless shows. This is Sin City.)
We sometimes try to be funny or clever with the news segment, but we don’t have Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert on our staff. Nor do we have their shows’ writers. I mention this because, for obvious reasons, we’re not trying to be the local version of “The Daily Show.”
As good friend (and former Lawrence Journal-World colleague) Joel Mathis recently pointed out to me, 702.tv is a lot like an updated version of the old PM Magazine television show. Only for Las Vegas. And for people who grew up watching MTV and South Park.
We wanted 702.tv to look very different than other local television productions.
* The show’s studio was built to look like a high-roller’s suite here in Las Vegas It’s actually a replica — or at least a close cousin — of the Whiskey Suite at the Green Valley Ranch resort, except our “suite” has a pool table in it. (Well, a pool table that we bought for a hundred bucks on Craigslist.)
* The graphics look fantastic — unlike anything you might typically see on local television.
* The segments are shot to look more like HGTV or the Food Network.
* Our anchors are amazingly talented and extremely hard-working young video journalists who shoot most of their own stuff, edit nearly all of their own stuff, write all of their own stuff and appear on camera.
I tell people all of the time that it’s hard for me not to feel a little insecure around the 702.tv folks because they’ve won the genetic lottery.
There are some obvious similarities between 702.tv and our team’s old Studio 55 project from the Naples Daily News: Denise Spidle is our main anchor; Alex Adeyanju is our sports anchor; it’s a show produced by a predominantly newspaper-based media company; it has a number in the name.
But there are more differences than similarities. We all learned so much from the Studio 55 experience, and someday I should probably go into all that we learned.
One of the biggest things we learned was that we needed a real, honest-to-God TV person running this thing. Not a newspaper nerd from Kansas.
That’s where Chris DeFranco fits in.
Chris is one of the most talented and grounded folks I’ve ever met. He is a long-time Las Vegas television producer and the former creative services director at KLAS-TV here in Las Vegas.
He added a level of polish and professionalism that we’ve never really had when it comes to our team’s videos. Plus, as one of my mentors, Ralph Gage, used to say, Chris knows how to “run a railroad” and keep the trains on time.
Another thing that we did earlier this summer/spring was shoot seven weeks of prototype episodes (or I guess in the TV world, they’d be called “pilots” but I’m not even going to pretend to know the right terminology). We then had an amazing group of broadcast professionals, Internet nerds, web journalists, print folks, academic types, and generally just super smart people from across the nation critique each episode.
The feedback we got from that group was invaluable.
So, that’s it. That’s 702.tv.
The idea was simple: Inform people who don’t know they need to be informed. Or something like that.
And do it one way on TV, another way on the Web, another way on VOD, and another way via HD over IP.
Now, the question is, will it work?
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