August 14, 2009
by Alastair Goldfisher, in peHUB
I'm not accustomed to reading a press release and seeing the word "sucks," as in "That Sucks."
But that was the case today when I was poring over an embargoed release for Rooftop Comedy, a portfolio company of Azure Capital Partners.
San Francisco-based Rooftop is announcing on Monday the launch of a TV series called That Sucks that Azure General Partner Mike Kwatinetz says is the first TV series that combines social networking and the Internet with the power of standard broadcast television.
"The TV industry has been learning how to combine the Internet with its programming and That Sucks is a big leap in the evolutionary process," he says.
Most of you may be familiar with Rooftop Comedy for their 15,000-plus hours of content that it hosts on its site of live comedy performances. Hulu and others also features Rooftop Comedy material (for some of you, parental guidance is probably suggested even with all the bleeped words).
At the heart of That Sucks is what the company calls a Sucksbox, a Web and mobile platform that asks the public to respond via text, audio or video to the question: "What do you think sucks?" The funniest Sucksbox submissions will then be broadcast with other Rooftop Comedy programming on the cable program MavTV, which is apparently carried by most cable networks nationwide.
Kwatinetz says that another interesting thing about That Sucks, which should get the attention of the TV industry, is how affordable it costs to produce. He noted that scripted programs on broadcast TV costs about $50,000 a minute to produce. Reality TV costs about one-third of the scripted programming and Rooftop Comedy's content costs less than 10% of Reality TV.
Kwatinetz is not only a board member of Rooftop Comedy, he says he also watches the programming on the site about once a week. Azure invested about $2.5 million in the company in a Series A round in 2007. Kwatinetz says that the company is doing well, thanks in part to some partnership agreements with Microsoft, Yahoo, Current TV, Apple and Hulu.
I suggested that the company is an unusual investment for the San Francisco-based Azure. But Kwatinetz pointed to the firm's portfolio, which includes BlogHer, Education.com, Cooking.com and Knowledge Adventure, among other consumer-oriented Internet-related companies.
"We have a lot of Web and new media companies that are looking to take the next step in developing their Web strategy," he says. "What Rooftop is doing with That Sucks represents the next step."
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