This is an interesting deal for the TV company that was known as Gannett until last week. (That name moved to newly spun off newspaper and digital company that includes USA Today.) Tegna just became an investor in Video Call Center (VCC), a technology platform from inventor and former analyst Tom Wolzien that makes it possible for broadcasters to juggle Skype video calls as easily and inexpensively as radio stations handle phone calls.
The announcement comes one year to the day after Wolzien disclosed that he had secured a patent for his technology.
“The Video Call Center is re-inventing television and Tegna’s investment will help speed that re-invention process across the industry,” Wolzien says. “Within five years, video caller television will be a mainstay among broadcast stations, cable networks and web services seeking to extend viewer interaction.”
His thinking is that as TV ratings and ad sales weaken, execs will want popular, but low cost, programming — especially shows that can replace re-runs or infomercials during some non-prime time slots. The VCC enables a team of five or fewer people to produce a show with video calls from smartphones or computers, without the expense of going through a control room.
Tegna is the largest independent owner of major network affiliates in the 25 biggest markets. The company says that it has already used VCC to produce more than 100 hours of live programming. That included a month of daily shows at Denver’s KUSA where experts, lawyers and others called in to discuss and take questions about the Colorado theater shooting trial. It also used VCC to produce social, mobile and online fare.
“We believe this digital technology will foster innovation in the area of live, interactive programming across multiple platforms,” Tegna Media President Dave Lougee says. “This forward-thinking partnership positions us well digitally, and in the future, as the VCC seamlessly combines social media, television and the web to maximize viewer engagement.”
The partners didn’t disclose financial terms. Wolzien says that he now has “a steady flow of folks kicking the tires.” Before deciding to dedicate himself to inventions (he already has several major patents), advising moguls, and serving as TiVo’s lead independent director, he was one of the smartest media analysts on Wall Street, and a top exec at NBC News.