Content may be king — but in an era of unlimited entertainment options, being the person who can help consumers decide just how they find said content has its upside, too.
That seems to be the operating philosophy of Jim Lanzone, the former CEO of Barry Diller’s Ask.com. After leaving Ask in 2008, Lanzone re-emerged last fall to launch Clicker.com, a site which makes it easy to find out where your favorite TV shows (and other video content) live online.
Clicker, with offices in both Silicon Alley and LA, boasts a massive database of more than 650,000 TV episodes from 10,000 shows. It’ll even tell you where you can find both full-length episodes of "The Facts of Life" and the cut-down "minisodes" of said series.
TheWrap’s Josef Adalian recently caught up with Lanzone to grill him for a progress report on Clicker, find out how the networks are responding to his site and get some insight as to the future of online viewing:
In 10 words or less, describe Clicker.com.
Clicker is the complete programming guide for Internet television. (GQ described us is in fewer words: "TV Guide for Internet television." But I don’t want to namedrop. Yes I do.)
Other than having some spare cash to invest, what prompted you to create the site?
After leaving IAC/Ask in 2008, I was an "entrepreneur-in-residence" at a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, which means I was basically paid to work on new ideas and evaluate other ones. They had previously funded disruptive new media companies like TiVo and Netflix.
Online TV was just starting to emerge as a real category, and one new idea we had was literally "TV Guide for the Web." What would that look like in this new era of infinite VOD, where the question isn’t when things are on, but what’s on and where you can find it when it’s fragmented across hundreds of thousands (and eventually millions) of host sites? That looks like a search and database problem, which was right in the wheelhouse for my team. So we raised $8 million in venture capital and jumped.
Do you see Clicker as a future replacement of on-screen program guides as more and more viewing moves from watching via cable to watching via broadband — even if folks do it on a connected 50-inch plasma vs. their laptop?
One-hundred percent yes. Our goal is to be the number one way you navigate programming in the future, regardless of what device you’re on. … The lines are blurring between all of these devices and technologies. In the near future it will not be "50-inch plasma vs. your laptop," but your laptop will be the remote control, wirelessly beaming your laptop screen directly to your plasma. That’s when the fun really starts. Darwinism is definitely hard at work in this category.
Are the networks cooperating with Clicker? Do they get your potential role?
Again, 100 percent yes. The reason content owners and distributors like Clicker is that we are Switzerland in this space, attempting to build a comprehensive, organized, and unbiased way to navigate and discover programming. But we are not the place you watch it, so we are not competing with the people we’re sending traffic to.
To use the analogy again, we are TV Guide, but not TV. So we are working directly with most networks, as well as new programming sources like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon VOD and Xfinity, to make sure their content is comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date on Clicker. And if we do that well, we’ll be helping them all build healthy, vibrant destinations of their own, on each of their apps and websites, rather than trying to make them irrelevant by aggregating their content for viewing on our own site.
In its heyday, TV Guide was known for having great editorial surrounding its listings. Is that a long-term goal for Clicker? Or will the editorial all be consumer-driven, via community and comments?
We dabble in this now on both our blog, where we have articles most days highlighting what to watch, or behind-the-scenes video interviews we do with show creators. We even did a six-part "Who should win/Who will win" feature on the Streamy Awards, which celebrate the best of Web originals (Zach Galifinakis won best comedy this year for "Between Two Ferns," an amazing Funny or Die show, for example).
I imagine we’ll do more and more content like this. Our real focus though will be on engaging our community and giving users the tools to create show-related content themselves, which they can then share with friends and other Clicker users.
How will Clicker be different this time next year vs. where it is today?
If I told you that I’d have to kill you. I may kill you anyway.
How do you watch most of your TV these days? Online? On a big screen? Your iPad?
A combination, really. I watch on my laptop, iPhone and iPad. I watch online shows on my plasma either by plugging in my laptop or my Mac Mini. I have a Roku I sometimes use. I still have DirecTV and tape a ton of stuff on their crappy DVR (can’t wait for them to release their new TiVo DVR). And a lot of the time I have TV on in the background as ambient noise, because I’m a child of the ’80’s and completely addicted to television. No self-control.
Tell me three shows you can’t miss each week when they’re on:
I can’t quit "Lost," even though my new theory is that it’s about the dumbest people on Earth all trapped on one island.
The first seasons of "Archer" and "The League" just ended and those were outstanding new comedies. NBC’s comedies are great again, namely "Parks & Rec" and "Community." Just starting to get into "Party Down." And I can’t wait for the new season of "Mad Men." (Ed. note: So that explains the Clicker.com logo!)
I also watch a ton of sports, to my wife’s chagrin.
You’re the former CEO of Ask.com, so maybe you’ll know the answer to this: What is "Burn Notice"?
It’s either the best show to feature Bruce Campbell since "Evil Dead 2," or, according to the number one result on Ask.com: "A burn notice is an official statement issued by one intelligence agency to other agencies."