"I can't talk about it right now," said Jolna, when pressed by Madison + Vine as to why he was there.
Jeff Shell, CEO of Gemstar-TV Guide International, was more forthcoming. "Stacy is going to be working for us," said Shell, without hesitation, and then described a channel Jolna was launching for the company. He said the channel might be called something like "TV Guide Land" and it would be a TiVo-like interactive network that would allow viewers to call up short clips of TV shows that they had missed that week.
About a week later, TV Guide officially announced that Jolna was joining the company in the "newly created position of senior VP-general manager of TV Guide Television Group's new non-linear network designed for VOD, DVRs, broadband and cellular distribution."
RAISING THE BAR
Jolna finally spelled it out to Madison + Vine this week as an opportunity to raise the bar in programming for viewers, networks and advertisers. He described it as a personalized TV guidance offering for viewers, another iteration of control shifting from programmers to consumers. "Every viewer who utilizes this new service will have an opportunity to watch what he or she wants to watch," said Jolna. "To find the right shows, to watch reviews or previews or catch up with your favorite show. If you've heard about a show around the water cooler you'll be able to possibly watch a compilation of that program."
What will the new network look like? Will it have hosts introducing clips, or scrolls with TV programming schedules?
"There will be very little that [will be] traditional about this," Jolna said, explaining that the network will probably be a hybrid combination of search technologies with entertainment content and will be delivered not just through the tube, but through other media as well.
"You want to learn about a show, you hit a button, or tap a key on your computer or on your PDA or on your cellphone and you can watch a video clip that will help you understand more about what you want to know about a show. And then connect those dots all the way to recording the program, watching it now in some fashion, whether in a DVR atmosphere or through a traditional MSO or satellite service that can provide content on demand."
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Jolna pointed out that TV Guide will work on the project with existing MSO partners such as Comcast and satellite players, Echostar and DirecTV, as well as with TiVo. He said discussions with networks and other content providers are ongoing. "There are major wins here for the television industry to promote their programs for the benefit of television consumers," said Jolna.
As for advertising, Jolna said the network will give viewers a marketing and entertainment experience that is compelling and not annoying. "This has to be a permission-marketing service. There may be advertising that takes the form of sponsorships of packages of entertainment, reviews, previews, look-backs, catchups, all of this has yet to be invented. We have a big broad canvas to paint on. We will be filling in the picture over the next several months."
There is no launch date for the channel, which has not been officially named. According to Jolna, the company is still exploring fundamental issues, such as "where are we going to play, who are we going to play with, what does our competition look like, how big is the business, what do our consumers really want?"
Speaking of playing: Why was Omarosa at the TV Guide upfront? Will they play with her? Will she host the network?
"I don't know," said Jolna laughing. "But I am a big fan of hers."