The men’s-targeted Tuff TV launched in 2009 as one of the first over-the-air (OTA) “diginets.” It can now be seen not only via many broadcast stations but over a live web stream accessible to anyone. Tuff TV’s parent company Seals Entertainment Company (Sealsco) is now ready to launch four more combo OTA/streaming networks covering such genres as movies, animals and motorcycle sports.
The Savvy Screener recently spoke with Lou Seals (pictured below, lower right), Chairman/CEO of Sealsco and Tuff TV’s founder, about Tuff TV’s evolution and Sealsco’s ambitious growth plans. (Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
TSS: It’s been eight years since you launched Tuff TV. A lot has changed on the TV landscape since then. How has all this affected Tuff? Where is Tuff now versus your original expectations?
Seals: Tuff TV has benefited greatly from the 2009 conversion to digital from analog television. In many ways, this was the second coming of television, much like cable was in the early days. Digital has allowed for tremendous expansion of niche broadcast networks much like cable did. Fast forward to now, and it’s akin to digital networks like Tuff TV being on steroids with the various technology advancements and offerings available. The wave of the future is now, and broadcast is a key distribution platform to reach a substantial number of free over-the-air (OTA) viewers. Cord cutting has benefited Tuff TV, but so has the power of internet distribution which allows numerous over the top (OTT) platforms. Tuff TV Is definitely exceeding our original expectations from when we launched in June 2009 as one of the first digital broadcast networks.
TSS: What was your professional background before launching Tuff TV?
Seals: I started in 1980 as an intern at a small cable system south of Atlanta. That led to me working for Cable America as director of programming and production for local origination and local access content. By 1983, I had formed my own TV production company, Seals Communications Corp., which eventually became one of the largest independent producers of niche programming on networks including ESPN and ESPN2. We were pioneers at sponsor-supported programming and at developing motorcycle sports and outdoors hunting and fishing content that appeared on major cable networks such as USA, The Nashville Network and Spike TV, in addition to ESPN and ESPN2. We also produced a wide variety of other sports and lifestyle programming, and created shows aimed at multiple demographics. In essence, we produced and sold many genres of programming that one would see on a major broadcast or cable network.
“Fast forward to now, and it’s akin to digital networks like Tuff TV being on steroids with the various technology advancements and offerings available. “
TSS: Can you talk about original content on Tuff TV?
Seals: Quite a bit of original programming already airs on Tuff TV. We have developed Tuff Originals branded series and will be greatly expanding this programming very soon. We now have over 30 original exclusive-to-Tuff TV projects in development that are ready to be produced. This content consists of unscripted and scripted programming, as well as made-for-Tuff TV movies.
TSS: Where can our readers stream Tuff TV?
“In five years, I see us owning 20 networks at the minimum, distributed worldwide on multiple platforms.“
TSS: You announced ambitious plans for four new networks back in January. What’s the latest with Flicks TV (movies), Rocky TV (animals), Motoworld Network (motorcycle sports) and Go Channel (“featuring themes of being on the go in a fast-paced world with limited time”)?
Seals: These four networks have been cleared on various OTT and digital broadcast platforms. They will launch during the fourth quarter of 2017 and first quarter of 2018. Programming acquisitions are well underway and pre-sales to advertisers and sponsors are also occurring.
TSS: Any other new networks/projects on the drawing board?
Seals: We have five more networks that are well into development and will be announced soon. Our current plans include a total of 20 different channels across various media platforms. When many are sleeping, we enjoy creating TV networks.
TSS: What do you envision as the ideal breakdown of your viewership between over-the-air, cable/satellite/telco, and streaming?
Seals: Streaming via the internet reaches the greatest number of eyeballs so that is a given. The ideal domestic breakdown in my opinion is a minimum of 75 million households with at least 50 million consisting of cable/telco/satellite coverage and 25 million OTA broadcast. This equation is very attractive to most advertisers.
TSS: Is it tough for Sealsco to go up against larger media companies in the distribution wars, especially in the face of continued consolidation such as the proposed Sinclair/Tribune merger?
Seals: We are lucky to have close relationships with most of the largest media companies in the world given our 35-year history in the industry. ESPN was our first big partner and they continue to be a close friend. We are well connected and have done business with so many of the majors in cable and broadcast that, although difficult at times, we are not bothered by the tough factor nor by consolidation. Intelligence usually prevails, and I like to think we have some of the brightest folks and best relationships possible.
TSS: Where do you see Tuff TV and your other channels in five years?
Seals: In five years, I see us owning 20 networks at the minimum, distributed worldwide on multiple platforms. Of these, I see original programming as being the majority of content seen on each of these channels. I’m in no hurry to retire so selling our assets is not an immediate goal. Increasing our strategic partnerships is an immediate goal. Some of these partners could be potential owners of our networks. Challenges drive me, not necessarily money. I’m not trying to emulate Sumner Redstone nor anyone similar, but God willing, I intend to stick around awhile!
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