By Mitra Sorrells Posted September 12, 2012, 1:58 PM EDT
A new online network scheduled to launch in early 2013 is aiming to do for business-to-business events what broadcast radio and television did for sports: share them with a global audience both live and on-demand. That’s the strategy behind BOBtv—Best of Business television—an online network created by Tony Lorenz, founder of Chicago-based bXb Online, an online event marketing company.
“We take our game—these big events or small events or medium-size events—and bring them out online to a global audience that will never get there. A South African dentist is never going to go to an American Dental Association conference, but he or she wants that content. So to get it online and bring the revenue to A.D.A. is a good thing. It is revenue otherwise not received,” Lorenz said. “The broadcast exposure of sports to a wide, wide audience did nothing but add favorable impact to the face-to-face events. Everything got redefined and money started rolling in.”
The network will invite associations, corporations, and media companies to provide content that can be shared online. That content will be grouped into channels based on the 14 industries defined by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, such as health care, transportation, education, and consumer goods. Those owners of content will determine whether to make the information available for free or for a fee, and they will receive a portion of any fees. Entities can also opt to create interactivity in their live events by allowing online attendees to submit questions via text or video chat.
“I think there is an inherent power of face-to-face that you can’t get online. That’s why we say BOBtv is the second-best seat in the house. I would much rather be in the room than just watching online. But events are so expensive, and we have so much of the audience that doesn’t get there. So this gives the ability to leverage them out to wider audiences,” Lorenz said. “Sapphire Now, Cisco Live, I could go on and on about the organizations that are getting bigger and bigger face-to-face events and bigger and bigger online extensions of those same events. The online is helping to market the face-to-face. If your event is solid and it provides value to your attendees, then by extending it smartly online, you’re going to get more people. It’s been proven time and time again.”
For more than a year, Lorenz has been gathering input from leaders of groups such as the American Society of Association Executives, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the International Association of Exhibitors and Events, and the Professional Convention Management Association to develop the business plan for the network. Lorenz announced the concept at P.C.M.A. in January, and last month he announced the brand identity of BOBtv.
“BOBtv is like that guy that’s there when you need him, knows a lot of people, is always there to extend his network to your benefit. We all have those people in our lives. And this is the persona of Bob,” Lorenz said. Most of the content will come from business-to-business events, but the network will also offer some continuing education programming.
Associations and companies that can produce their own content will pay what Lorenz calls a “modest fee” to put it on the network. The network will be able to capture online events from virtually any technology platform. Those who need production assistance will pay more for BOBtv to provide that service. The network has partnered with Exhibit Surveys to provide baseline metrics to content-owners, including audience reach, visitor quality, and sales and marketing acceleration.