Former GlassBOX execs launch TableRock Media

Jeffrey Elliott, Joseph Arcuri and Whistlestop producer David Hatch are set to offer subscription-based digital channels over the top.
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TableRock Media, a new direct-to-consumer entertainment company with a leadership team that includes two former GlassBOX Television execs, announced Tuesday it will launch a suite of digital-only, subscription-based channels in 2016.

The company is currently in talks to offer the OTT channels on Apple and Android devices, set-top boxes, video game consoles and other digital platforms. The channels will be available via apps on the various platforms, and users can access the content after they purchase a subscription.

Each channel will have a narrow focus on a variety of niche subject matters, such as guitars, motorcycles and aviation. In addition, subscribers will have access to exclusive events, digital forums and social media communities based around the interests highlighted in the channels. TableRock is currently in late-stage talks with a technology partner which will create digital infrastructure for the channels.

TableRock Media co-founder Jeffrey Elliott, who also co-founded GlassBOX TV, said the company’s execs saw an opportunity to create programming centered on niche industries that attract a large and passionate consumer base, as the public becomes more comfortable with the idea of paying for high-quality digital content.

“These are people who are spending thousands of dollars on their passion, and we believe there is opportunity in there to get hyper-niche and focus ourselves. Technology has enabled us to reach these consumers, not only through an OTT option…but also through social networking and through events,” Elliott told Playback Daily.

The USP for the service, Elliott noted, is providing consumers with a one-stop-shop to access a broad range of digital content related to their interests. While content about aviation or guitar-playing may be available elsewhere online, such as YouTube, the quality varies and curation can take time, Elliott said.

“We can make really good, high-quality content that is produced for a specific audience and market it to them,” Elliott said.

The majority of the programming will be in the unscripted space, such as documentaries and hosted, magazine-style series. The channels will feature a mix of acquired content and original programming created and distributed by TableRock. However, the hyper-niche nature of the programming means TableRock expects almost 80% of the content on the service will be original, said chief creative officer and co-founder David Hatch.

“We are going to be looking to generate most of this content ourselves. It has to be bang-on in terms of target and in terms of information and passion. I don’t see a lot of that out there in the marketplace beyond some documentaries and some films that fit the niche,” Hatch said. Much of the production will be done in-house, but Hatch said the company will also be commissioning content.

On the advertising side, the OTT service won’t have any pre-roll ads, but there will likely be branded entertainment opportunities, Elliott said.

“A traditional CPM model doesn’t necessarily work when you are dealing with a niche audience, yet it’s a way to get to your target audience with a sniper rifle – it’s right to who you want to talk to,” Elliott said. A price point for the subscriptions has not yet been determined, but Elliot said it would likely be in line with what other “premium” OTT subscription services charge.

Along with Elliott and Hatch, Joseph Arcuri, former CFO at GlassBOX and former president of AOL Canada, is also a co-founder of TableRock Media. Hatch continues to work with Toronto-based Whistlestop Productions, of which he is the founder.

TableRock Media’s board of directors include Ken Murphy, former president and general manager at Discovery Canada and co-founder of High Fidelity (High Fidelity and GlassBOX were both acquired by Blue Ant Media in 2012). Other directors include Henry Eaton, president of Eaton Ventures, and Francis MacDougall, founder of GestureTek.