FasTV's Swegles Charts Course for Video Streaming Startup
The Los Angeles company is betting that users soon will bookmark its searchable video clipping service, www.fastv.com, and make it a daily habit.
Whether FasTV succeeds in its mission to bring streaming video clips to the mass PC audience rests on the shoulders of William Swegles, 47, president/COO of the company.
Swegles was lured out of what he calls "a very early retirement" - he retired at age 44 from US West/Media One - by the challenge of building a groundbreaking New Media business.
"There are only so many vacations I could plan," he said.
About two years ago, Swegles began consulting work for Prince Kahled Al-Nehayan of Dubai. The Prince asked Swegles to investigate a number of investments the Royal Family held in the United States, including a company that had developed a powerful video search engine combined with capability to download multiple data streams and digitize clips immediately.
"The idea was to take this technology and develop a freestanding company based on its streaming video technology," said Swegles. "I told Prince Kahled at the time that streaming video over the Internet, even narrow-band and at 28.8K modem speed, would have a huge impact on the Internet and the way people enjoy and receive information and entertainment."
With the go-ahead from the Prince - and an investment of more than $10 million to launch the service - Swegles pulled together a hand-picked crew of executives, drawing on resources from within the entertainment, multimedia and New Media industries.
For example, Tim Winter, vice president and chief financial officer of FasTV.com, previously was executive director of finance and business development for MGM Interactive.
Swegles brings a wealth of New Media experience to FasTV. As vice president and general manager at US West/Media One, Swegles managed worldwide New Media, interactive TV and Internet businesses. His teams conceived of and launched Home Banking-Bill and Pay It Inc. - which was later sold to Intuit- Big Yellow, Switchboard, GO.tv (a joint venture with Time Warner Cable) and USAvenue Interactive TV.
"Bill is extremely persistent, particularly in the area of New Media," said Josette Bonte, vice president of New Media and entertainment for consulting firm RHK, San Francisco, and a former multimedia executive at US West. "His interest and commitment to New Media is not new. He was interactive before there even was interactive."
"Bill is a very unique and dynamic individual," said Randy Freedman, a senior consultant, TransGlobal Associates LLC., Hartwell, GA, which is working with FasTV. "He's an island of practicality and market savvy in a sea of Internet chaos."
Born and raised on the Eufuala Cherokee Reservation in Oklahoma, Swegles was taught by missionaries, who encouraged his higher aspirations. Swegles holds a law degree and MBA from Stanford University and is a member of the university's board.
He began his career at Bain & Co., where he remains one of the two youngest engagement managers in that firm's history. At Bain, he helped to create and execute Sony's WalkMan, Disney's Buena Vista Studios, General Electric's electronic component diversification and Intel's worldwide manufacturing and components strategy.
Among other achievements: As group product director at Memorex, Swegles conceived and launched the ubiquitous "Is it live or is it Memorex?" branding for Memorex's audiocassette businesses. As a partner at Arthur D. Little, Swegles helped reposition America Online as a chat destination and revamped CompuServe as an in-depth content resource. At Motorola's New Enterprises, he worked extensively with top electronic chip manufacturers.
"Bill stands out in many dimensions, in both his good business judgment and his good handling of people," said Greg Korb, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Sandbox Entertainment, an Internet fantasy sports destination.
Swegles isn't one to rest on laurels, though. He continues to build his experience and extend his learning to his current passion: the nurturing of FasTV.
Swegles firmly believes up to 90 percent of people will use FasTV.com on their computers to catch up on news, entertainment and other events.
FasTV.com, which promotes itself as the Internet's first searchable video destination for consumers and businesses, is organized into the following categories: news, weather, entertainment, business and lifestyle. Searches are based on the text of the programming's closed captioning. Site visitors type in simple keywords to find and view exactly what they want, whenever they want, and FasTV.com delivers the search results in concise video segments directly to viewers' computers.
FasTV features a comprehensive selection of current and archived video content from well-known news, business, sports, entertainment and lifestyle sources, including CNN, CNNfn, Bloomberg Television, New Line Cinema, the American Film Institute and the Weather Channel, among others.
Content bears the provider's logo and a link back to its site. Major partners also get a FasTV window on their own sites.
"For the first time, Internet users can see and read in 10 minutes the many hours of traditional media viewing they might have otherwise missed. It's intensely personalized programming," said Swegles. "FasTV.com has channels, each featuring the day's top highlights, that organize news and entertainment the way viewers have told us they want to see it."
At present, content providers do not charge FasTV for the use of their services. FasTV, however, is working out advertising revenue-sharing agreements with its content providers.
Its Web site is a no-cost way for content partners to reach an additional audience and provide viewers a convenient new way to catch what they may have missed, Swegles said.
"This is exciting for the content providers because it provides a new way to reach people without negatively impacting their existing viewership," he said.
Revenue comes from advertising, business-to-business services and, possibly, subscription fees for some content. When a user views content, the provider gets a share of the revenue from ads served on that page.
FasTV plans to break an aggressive ad campaign this month with television and possibly outdoor ads, to complement an initial campaign that included online banner ads and print. Stein, Rogan & Partners, New York, which is developing a specialty in Internet and New Media, handles the marketing and advertising. Online ads appear on the GO Network, search engines and USAToday.com.
As an advertising and marketing tool, Swegles said streaming video is much more effective at pushing consumers to action. "Pressing a button to put a commercial clip into action is far more persuasive than simply looking at a banner ad," Swegles said. FasTV planned to place streaming video commercials on its site this month.
While FasTV can work with computers dialing up Internet providers with 28.8K modems and accommodate 121,000 simultaneous users streaming video, it's the emergence of broadband in the next three years or so that buoys Swegles. "It works now and will be even better with broader band widths," he said.
As for competition, no one has yet to match the agreements FasTV has with content providers. Jeremy Schwartz, a senior analyst with Forrester, notes that Virage, a company that manages video assets for such networks as CNN, ABC and others, perhaps comes closest to the potential of FasTV.
"What I'd like to see is FasTV get more into original video rather than the repurposed clips it's now gleaning," said Joan-Carol Brigham, research manager of Internet, International Data Corp., Framingham, MA. "I think there's greater upside revenue potential for original video services, not just repackaged clips."
Swegles responded that FasTV will get into two more original businesses, including a video clipping service for corporations, as well as a personal video service where individuals can upload video and hand out passwords to allow others to view clips, such as home movies.
Although Swegles is intimately involved with FasTV today, once he's convinced he has contributed as much as he can, he is likely to move on to another New Media venture. Already, there are discussions underway for FasTV to be acquired by other media concerns.
"We are in conversations with well-known media and media-aggregator companies," he said. "This began as soon as we launched May 20 and our discussions are continuing."