“I argued that the network shouldn’t be called GBTV,” Glenn Beck says. “I don’t want it about me, I want it bigger than me, it has got to be bigger than me.”
We are standing in GBTV’s basement studio in midtown Manhattan, not too far from the News Corp. building, where Beck held court at 5 PM on Fox News for over two years. After Beck and FNC parted ways earlier this year, he announced the launch of his web-TV channel, the cornerstone of which would be a daily two-hour program, an extended version of his Fox News show.
The crowd is small, four media reporters, Beck and Chris Balfe, the president of Beck’s company, Mercury Radio Arts. Some staffers from the just-completed taping of Beck’s daily show are still milling around, winding up cords, dimming the lights and moving the cameras to the side of the studio.
The show itself looked nearly identical to Beck’s FNC program, though there were some technical hiccups along the way, including a TelePrompTer issue at the end of comedian Brian Sack’s segment. Nonetheless, the show did not feel like a program on the internet. That was an intentional decision, Beck says:
“My first goal was to put on a show and have people say, ‘oh, that is not a webcast,’” he says. “[Fox News and CNN have] the resources of Murdoch and Turner, we can get into the ballpark of that on day one. Let us just stabilize this system, as you saw in the end with Brian, we are pushing the envelope and doing things we shouldn’t be doing right now. We have a lot to work out.”
“We are trying to deliver television over the internet, not internet television,” Balfe added.
Beck’s 5-7 PM program is the linchpin, but it is just one piece of the larger puzzle. Balfe says that GBTV is talking to outside production companies about ordering original programs, and internally some other shows are in development, such as “Liberty Treehouse,” a show for children.
“Right now what we are doing is cannibalizing some of the older shows, that can teach values to kids in different ways,” Beck says. “My suggestion was to take all these old shows that ran and say, ‘what was the episode of “Lucy” that was about honesty? What was the episode of “Bonanza” that was about honesty? Take those pieces, not the whole shows, and put them together into an episode about honesty.”
There are also regular contributors to Beck’s program such as Raj Nair and Amy Holmes, who will appear on other programming on the network. Then there is Sack, whose “B.S. of A” segment appears frequently on Beck’s show. Before Sack’s segment, a producer told the audience that they shouldn’t be afraid to laugh, even if the joke was at the expense of conservatives.
“We brought Brian because I want people to know that we are not going to be a conservative stick in the mud, but will push you up against the wall,” Beck says.
GBTV is ultimately a perpetual work-in-progress, with Beck and Balfe looking to add interactive elements as time goes on. As Beck told us in his studio, while it is his baby, his hope is that GBTV can move beyond him.
“I think both of our aspirations right now are that GBTV becomes like ESPN where no one remembers what the letters mean,” Balfe says.