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Sunny Weather: With Video Taking the Web By Storm It's Nothing But Blue Skies For Nathan Sassover and WorldNetCast.com 

2006 is the year video came of age on the Internet. Nearly half of all Americans now have a broadband connection at home and millions more are adding high speed access every month. In a report issued May 28, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said broadband use in the U.S. soared by 40% from March 2005 to March 2006. Other developed countries have a larger percentage of broadband users than America does, so the critical mass of global broadband users needed to make video on the web mainstream is now in place. 

With the technical obstacles out of the way, Internet users are flocking to video at an astounding rate. By now, all of you have probably heard of YouTube.com (if you haven’t, you really need to get out of the cave more often!) According to comScore Media Metrix, the site (which features countless video clips covering just about anything you could imagine) had just 58,000 unique users last August. By May that number had exploded to more than 12 million!

Nathan Sassover
Founder/CEO, WorldNetCast.com

The major TV networks have started putting episodes of their popular prime time shows on the Internet, available for anyone to download at little to no cost. That has many local TV affiliates worried about their future as this new distribution channel threatens to make them irrelevant. Back in 1993, an entrepreneur named Nathan Sassover saw all of this coming and he started registering domain names so he could take advantage of the revolution when it finally arrived. 

Sassover’s company, WorldNetCast.com, now operates 310 web TV “channels” with plans to have 1,000 of them online within in 18 months. Though many are not aware of his operation yet, he has already attracted such major advertisers as American Express, the U.S. Postal Service, Remax Realty and Holiday Inn and the company is already profitable. In the next few months you might start seeing WorldNetCast talked about as, like YouTube, an "overnight sensation". 

While what he has done may well be sensational, Sassover will be the first to tell you that he accomplished wasn’t done overnight. We’ll be the first to tell you that it is amazing that Sassover got himself into a position to do it at all. He has come a long way from his birthplace in Deggendorf, Germany to his current home in Beverly Hills, California.

Sassover’s parents were survivors of the Holocaust (if this sounds familiar to you it may be because, coincidentally, the subject of last month’s cover story, Ari Goldberger, was also a son of Holocaust survivors). During the Nazi reign in Germany, each of Sassover’s parents lost both of their parents as well as 13 brothers and sisters between the two families. After World War II, Sassover’s parents asked for permission to emigrate to America and after waiting for several years, they were finally allowed to make the move in 1949. The family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Nathan and his parents proudly became naturalized American citizens a few years later. 

Sassover developed an early love of music and started studying piano when he was 7 years old. That continued throughout his childhood and teenage years and lead to his enrollment at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there it was on to New York and a career composing music for films and TV. It was during those years in New York that Sassover became fascinated with other forms of media. He got involved in film/TV production and post production, graphics, CGI (computer generated imagery) and electronic soundscapes among other things. He also learned about micro-electronics technology and data transmission, developing skills that would serve him well when he decided to transfer his talents to the web. 

Sassover told us “The genesis of WorldNetCast.com originated in 1993 when I surveyed the media landscape, the emerging domain world and the opportunity I saw to basically replicate the dynamics of broadcast television as it originated in the1950s with its geographically defined affiliate system, which over time became known as local TV.” 

“My view, which was definitely NOT shared by many people at the time, was that the Internet was fundamentally a broadcasting opportunity. The painfully slow growth of broadband availability put us in a ‘hurry up and wait’ mode regarding WorldNetCast’s strategy. The common refrain was: ‘why would I want to watch video on my PC?’ or ‘the Internet is text based - it may be 20 years before that changes.’ All of this seems amusing now in retrospect as we see mobile devices/cell phones delivering video to ever-smaller screens, and low cost IPod movie and TV show downloads available worldwide,” Sassover said. 

Nathan added, “It’s not the first time I encountered this type of response. It virtually parallels another phase of my technology ventures. Years ago based on my research into analog/digital music synthesizer programming concepts, I developed a proprietary wireless microelectronic coding technology, which over time led me in a very different direction toward the design and invention of the first vehicle keyless remote security system. The industry and consumer response at the time was profound indifference, to put it mildly."

"My encoding/decoding technology and commercial applications eventually led to my being granted two patents, US Patent # 4,383,242 and # 3,987,408, which became the basis for the worldwide multi-billion dollar vehicle remote security industry. It’s the tiny transmitter in your pocket or built into your car key which locks/unlocks your doors and alarm system."  

"To date, as you may know, this invention has been adopted as standard or optional equipment by virtually all automobile manufacturers throughout the world, and with the product also dominating the global automotive aftermarket, the vehicle remote security and control system is considered the second most successful consumer automotive electronic product in history – the first being the car stereo,” Sassover said.

Having proven the critics wrong with that massive success, Sassover paid them no mind when he moved on to the Internet either. “Even though broadband levels were still quite low in the late 90’s, it was my belief that over time the Internet would increasingly follow the path of subdividing itself into a vast amalgam of local and regional destination sites. This trend, coupled with the rapid deployment of broadband services globally, would soon enable convergent Internet/TV destination sites based on the well established broadcast model of local and regional television stations, but enhanced by true video on demand, interactivity, channel personalization for the viewer, and user generated content,” Sassover said. 

“WorldNetCast was intended to integrate the proven concepts of local/regional TV combined with community newspaper, magazine and local business journal publishing. Clearly, this defines another space beyond the directional type-in generic domains, as well as geo-domain sectors which have been the mainstay of the domain industry for years. Our channels are not ‘landing pages’ or skeleton web sites with general info links. They are functional multi-category TV channels with our Omniview engine providing the user experience and scalable navigational structure,” Sassover added. 

"Evolving from a portfolio of 1100 domain names, WorldNetCast is a next generation Internet broadcast network that has sites ranging from metropolitan broadcast portals to micro-targeted communities. While the network portal is at WorldNetCast.com it is also deliverable to all mobile platforms," Sassover said. “The entire network will be available via our NetMobileTV.com venue that is currently in Beta. We are also building a search brand which will be a desktop feature within the network at YellowPagesTV.com as well as a broadband blogging venue at BloggerTV.com.” 

WorldNetCast’s hundreds of local/regional sites include:

NewYorkCityTV.com  
SouthernCaliforniaTV.com 
NevadaTV.com
 
OregonTV.com 
CenturyCityTV.com  

PalmSpringsTV.com

SantaFeTV.org
 

They also have sites like these developed in conjunction with Chambers of Commerce and business leaders:

IcelandBusinessTV.com

MiddleEastTV.com

ParisBusinessTV.com

BeijingTV.com.cn

ShanghaiTV.com.cn
 

Other targeted sites in the WorldNetCast network include:
 

Cinevue.com
 
A mega portal one-stop source for movie previews / downloads from all net based providers including MovieLink and CinemaNow.

eRetailTV.com

A Global Informercial Shopping Channel developed in conjunction with the Direct
Response Industry.

TravelandLeisureTV.com
A site billed as The Global Travel Destination.

The company’s technology allows users and clients to upload their own videos to WorldNetCast sites. "Over the next four weeks, all WorldNetCast channels are integrating our Omniview Quickload™ video tool which enables rapid uploading of user/advertiser generated video content by metro regions. We believe our database and infrastructure solutions provide a more compelling viewing/video management approach than the MySpace or YouTube type of sites,” Sassover said.

“It also enables YellowPagesTV.com advertisers to create their own ‘TV commercials’ and have them online within 48 hours viewable by local North America regions, just like the print versions, or by our evolving worldwide YellowPagesTV affiliates. 

 

This redefines Yellow Pages advertising and enables local TV advertising within Yellow Pages search - provided as a toolbar feature within all channels.”

WorldNetCast has developed multiple revenue streams with innovative sponsorship/advertising programs. Those include community organization sponsorships from municipal/state/regional economic development agencies, Chambers of Commerce, convention & visitor bureaus and tourism groups. There are also 'paid for insertion' and PPC ad units ranging from 30 seconds to 5 minute advertorials.  

“Our revenue based ads are video spots only. Banners and links to advertiser sites are included as part of the media package,” Sassover said. “Additionally, we have aligned with marketing groups that pay us for placement of their half hour documercial type content to reach specific B2B/B2C demographic zones within our highly targetable network, ranging from metro regions to clustered zip codes by specific communities.”

In addition to the sites they have developed themselves, WorldNetCast invites independent video based sites to join their network. “We encourage this and take a very democratic and transparent approach to integrating ‘content affiliates/ producers and/or advertising/marketing partners,” Sassover said. “WorldNet Cast is not myopic about the global implications and opportunities afforded by this type of Internet broadcast network.” 

While web video is still in its infancy, Sassover says all of the signs show a massive shift to the Internet is already underway. “The long term trend line started with network TV ratings falling as viewers embraced cable TV, which now seems almost quaint given the empowering nature of web based video and the limitless viewing options emerging. Even if most of those video experiences are amateurish, self indulgent and lame, the diversity is the point and recent statistics underscore the reality: 



Nathan Sassover

  • In 2005 the World Series had its worst ratings of all time, 30% lower than the previous year. 

  • Ratings for the NBA playoffs also reached record lows, down 43% from 2004. 

  • Grammy Awards ratings for 2006 were down 31% from two years ago. 

  • The Winter Olympics had their lowest ratings in 38 years, down 36% from the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. 

Where are these viewers? You can be assured they have not gone off to Tibet for a life of meditation and no TV. The fragmentation and disruption caused by the enlarging ‘video menus’ of the Net are a major force,” Sassover said. 

Google: Appello alla Net Neutrality

While everything seems to be coming up roses now, there is one lingering issue that could pose a threat to WorldNetCast. You have probably heard about the debate over “Net Neutrality”. Internet service providers appear to be winning a battle in Congress that will allow them to charge high bandwidth users (like video providers) extra fees if they want their content to continue flowing unimpeded across the web. Backers of “net neutrality” want laws enacted to ensure that all users are treated the same, but legislators currently seem disinclined to take such action. 

Sassover’s take is this. “The idea of ‘tiered services’ with premium costs for rapid delivery of certain content is a potential battlefield with more damage possible than orderly revenue streams for telecom/cable operators. It’s hard to see this as a rational way to assure future revenue for the telecom/broadband carrier industry that seems to have a suicidal tendency every 7 years.” 

“In the same way that telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online and determine the priority of content getting through first and fastest. This would fundamentally alter the openness of the Net and is based on economic issues only, driving a two-tiered system and control of the Internet, effectively blocking the on-ramps for those who can't pay the toll fees,” Sassover said. 

Though the cost of doing business on the web may go up, compared to old mediums like print magazines, radio and TV, the barrier to entry (in terms of start up cost) is dramatically lower on the Internet. Though WorldNetCast has a big head start on the field, competition is likely to crop up. It’s also unlikely that today’s local TV stations are going to quietly allow WorldNetCast to eat their lunch, especially when they already have professional video content production staff and equipment in place. How can WorldNetCast handle that challenge - and what advantages can they offer local advertisers that local TV operations can’t? 

“A very appropriate question,” Sassover said, “There are enormous production resources at the local/regional levels today but it’s not ‘either/or’, as there is also a spirit of local community and immediacy when you have rapid access to news and social networking as it happens, and a growing independent freelance movement of viewer/users who we feel would express hometown interest and embrace LANewsTV.com or LosAngelesTV.org or NewYorkCityTV.com with more enthusiasm and connectivity then say, KNBC, Los Angeles, or WNBC, New York.” 

Sassover added “Our advertisers appreciate the fact that they can micro-target the demographic/psychographic opportunities within our channels. For example, SouthenCaliforniaTV.com is a large metro region but we can also offer targeted zip code clusters within that, such as WestHollywoodTV.com, HollywoodHillsTV.com, PalmSpringsTV.com, etc. We can give you NorthernCaliforniaTV.com but we can also zoom in on SacramentoNewsTV.com, BigSurTV.com, MarinCountyTV.com or SanFranciscoNewsTV.com.” 

“It gets even more interesting when our mobile platforms are integrated. If you’re going to Las Vegas, the local TV channels are not structured to show you the options you have on a 24/7 basis but local video sources ‘on the ground’ can broadcast the whole scene via our channels LasVegasNewsTV.com and NevadaTV.com."

"They can give you ‘what’s hot/what’s not’ and all other topical information in a fast changing universe where web interactivity is much more compelling than local NBC/CBS/ABC/FOX affiliates' static platforms and reaction time in each market. And if you add the prospect of mobile messaging, hotel/restaurant reservations ‘on the fly’ to those venues, Now it’s a Brave New World!” Sassover concluded. 


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