NetTalk Live is a broadcasting history case study in merged media and interactivity and developed into a Syndicated program that aired 244 Original episodes over the course of an amazing TV syndication run of 19 original TV seasons.
Conceptualized and created in 1994, and tested as an original series called “The Insiders”, NetTalk started broadcasting in June 1995 as a Two-Hour Talk Radio Show. Within weeks, the program (a weekend broadcast) was dominating the Talk Radio marketplace in the 5th largest Broadcast Market (Dallas) in the United States. The show’s creator (who also happened to be the Executive Producer, Producer, Director, Writer and Host of the series), developed the idea of turning the runaway hit into a “new type of hybrid broadcast” thus evolved the World’s First TRIPLECAST(1996). A Triplecast, which is now a regularly used broadcasting strategy, is when a media product (in this case a radio program) combines with two other mass media broadcast formats (in this case Broadcast Television and Internet Broadcasting). The creator of the program joined forces with then AudioNet.com (the company that became Broadcast.com), founder Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner and linked the show with the 570KLIF streaming servers and first created a Dual-Cast (Radio Show combined with real time Internet Streaming). The relationship was a success for both companies. Then the creator tackled the third leg of the Triplecast by attracting a Television Network to the relationship. Initially approaching ABC, the creator was told by programming Executives at WFAA (the proposed anchor station) that “The Internet is a fad and won’t last long, so your idea is not one that will take off”. Not to be deterred, the show’s creator, then turned to Fox Television. Fox TV was enjoying the success of its series “In Living Color” and was able to prove that it could take independently produced programs outside the studio system, and turn them into TV hits. Long time Television Executive at the local Fox Affiliate KDFW/KDFI – James A. “Buff” Parham recognized the program as a potential hit with a huge potential for attracting a cult following, so a Broadcast TV deal was struck, with Fox modifying its broadcasting schedule to accommodate a LIVE –TWO HOUR – PRIME TIME show. The rest made history in many ways.
The anchor stations for NetTalk, now rebranded for its nationwide launch, were 570KLIF (ABC Radio – Susquehanna Radio), KDFI-TV (Fox TV) and Internet Audio (Audionet – Broadcast.com) and its debut show was a huge hit, breaking all time slot records and it’s first guest was Mark Cuban. From this Triplecast Innovation came the most successful Independent TV production in the US. NetTalkLive, operated and produced outside the traditional studio system, series started in Dallas, Texas and eventually syndicated to 700 television markets on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, WB, Fox and UPN. National Cable includes E-Entertainment Television, SciFi Network, USA Network and Comedy Central.
NetTalkLive achieved further industry accolades by being one of the first syndicated TV programs to be syndicated throughout 24 Middle East, Africa and European nations. This expanded NetTalkLive’s potential audience from 11 million to 70 million viewers with a signal that is now reaching the entire Middle East. In another broadcasting first, NetTalkLive was the first American Programming featuring the THEN BANNED Internet in China, to be adopted by the Chinese Government to introduce its country to the Internet and it’s uses.
Some of the Industry recognized FIRST for NetTalkLive were:
- First Triplecast of Television-Radio-Internet feed
- First LIVE – Triplecast
- First LIVE appearance by cast doing a SHOW LIVE-IN-FIELD drew an audience in attendance of over 7,500
- First TV Program ever (a record which still stands to this day) to do a LIVE broadcast in the field with Audience getting tickets to attend broadcast. This March 1997 NetTalkLive LIVE broadcast had over 44,000 people in attendance and shut down all of downtown Dallas
- Radio Program made radio history by breaking a 50 year ratings record
- National advertisers, market leaders such as RadioShack, Microsoft, American Airlines and others, going against their ad agencies- joined in sponsorship of the Independent Syndicated Series recognizing it as a cult hit
- Microsoft, then with a 9% market Browser Share (Dallas market) for its new Internet Explorer software, creatively sponsored NetTalkLive to battle it’s then largest browser competitor Netscape, and within 30 days of sponsoring the NetTalkLive Triplecast, has turned the market around an garnered over 90% market share for its Internet Explorer software (as detailed in Bill Gate’s book – Business @ the Speed of Thought).
In an interview with the show’s creator, he recounts the cast member of NetTalkLive to be:
The founding cast of NetTalkLive were: Jovan (Creator-Host-Tour Guide To The Internet), Laura Lewis (Co-Host/CyberBabe), Doug Davis (Advanced Support – SuperGeek), John Stewart (Tech Support-PC Man). In subsequent seasons, the cast consisted of: Jovan (Creator-Host), Georgia Foy (Co-Host/CyberBabe/Entertainment Reporter), Dave Matthews (PC Support-GadgetGuy) and Luis Vallecillo (Mac Support/Weborican).
The show’s creator goes on to comment on the influencing forces in the program. “Laura Lewis represent the Newbies out there watching, the people who were new to computing and the Internet and need us to slow down and speak in NON-ACRONYMS. But the real breakout stars of the program, the ones the fans loved the most and just wanted more of were Georgia Foy (later seasons co-host and CyberBabe)”. “Georgia has gone on to do movies and is a well know TV personality still broadcasting. The other and them most influential in the broadcast was Weborican –Luis Vallecillo.” “Luis became the immediate fan favorite and was adored and loved by our fans, because they could tell he was real and genuine.” The creator of NetTalkLive continues on, “Luis originally sent the show what you could call hate-mail. Not mean spirited mind you, but a –Hey you guys got it wrong- email. So I sent him a reply and told him –if you can do better at this on TV, then come do it!” “And he did. He was this great looking, well spoken, polished professional Mac/Apple guy. He was an instant hit, even though we treated him horriblty the first few shows, because at the time there was a PC –vs.-Mac war raging on”.
While being interviewed for this story, Luis Vallecillo recounted the fateful email that changed his life. “Sometime back in October, 1996 I was at home flipping through the channels, bored out of my skull, when I came upon a show on Fox TV where this group of guys were talking about the Internet and the World Wide Web. It was Net Talk Live with Jovan, Laura Lewis, Mark Markham (partial season – PC/Web Support – WebHead), and Kim Adams (Special Reporter – ChatChick). I thought it was rather amusing, and besides, I was getting a kick out of correcting and expanding on their every answer (something easier done from the comfort of your sofa than with hundreds of watts worth of lights and a camera in your face). It wasn’t until someone on the show attempted to answer a Macintosh related question, which they successfully answered incorrectly, that I decided I needed to email these characters. Well, that was my “foot in the door”, so to speak, into Net Talk Live. I was contacted by Jovan, and after a brief meeting became MacMan, with a whopping 1:30 minute segment of airtime out of each 2 hour LIVE broadcast. Woo hoo! But, I am told the fans won out and wanted MORE Weborican so Jovan moved me up and others out and the rest is history.”
The show’s creator continues, “Luis was at first a HUGE hit with our PC fans because we dogged Luis and Mac’s so much. But then the fan outcry was huge and we stopped (some of the time) ragging on Mac’s and full time personality on the show of Weborican was born and we never looked back.” “In those days when we did our out in the field shows, it was amazing. Imagine 44,000 fans there, in downtown Dallas to see this little, started out of Dallas, TV program about the Internet and how to use it. It was amazing, just amazing”.
Net Talk Live! started production in August 1996, and the last show aired July 4, 2001. Net Talk Live! became the most successful independent syndicated series with over 244 original episodes produced. In TV terms where a hit show might last 3 season or more if its great, NetTalkLive – The World’s First Triplecast- teaching You everything You Need to Know about The Internet and World Wide Web, lasted am amazing 19 TV seasons – and that was 10 years ahead of the Internet curve!
FOOTNOTE: In an interesting bit of irony, the same ABC TV Station that said the “Internet is a fad” and turned down the show’s creator, well that station became in later years and the final 5 seasons, NetTalkLive’s anchor broadcast station.