Despite more than $2 million of losses in two years, a company hopes to turn its valued TV technology into a winning model.
WhereverTV won telecom industry acclaim late in the past decade for its internet-based over-the-top-television programming technology, known as OTT.
But the Fort Myers company languished for several years. That includes a $1.9 million loss in 2016.
A revival plan came with the 2015 hiring of investment banker and mergers and acquisition specialist Edward Ciofani to run things. Ciofani, who also previously worked in the energy sector, took over for WhereverTV founder Mark Cavicchia.
Now chairman and CEO, Ciofani has consolidated the subscriber-based global OTT TV programming service into offices on Palm Beach Boulevard, after he shut down operations in WhereverTV's original home in Pittsburgh. The plan for the company, founded in 2006, includes a significant investment in content and system programming. The goal: Generate new life for the business in the booming streaming video market.
Ciofani's main task has been to maximize the company's key asset — a patented OTT television platform that gives viewers live-streaming on smartphones, tablets, streaming media players, computers and smart TVs. Today's programming is a mix of licensed and free-to-air content. It's worldwide, genre-specific and in languages the viewer chooses.
WhereverTV's video streaming technology has turned heads before - especially at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It can do so again, Ciofani says.
“We have gone out of our way to put everything in place,” he says. “Our website (wherever.tv) and mobile app are done. We're ready to start on our marketing.”
The website that will go live in a few weeks “is 100 times more user friendly” than the previous one, Ciofani says. He predicts the site's easy use and WhereverTV's worldwide programming will draw 3,000 new subscribers a month. The company makes money at 10,000 total subscribers, Ciofani says.
The platform will initially have 147 channels in various languages, Ciofani says.
The company's shares are traded on the over-the-counter penny stocks exchange (symbol: TVTV, recent price: 33 cents per share). But Ciofani and his board have put up much of the cash for the renewed market push. “It has been capital intensive,” he says. “I personally have invested $1 million, another board member has put in $800,00, our CFO has put in $150,000.”
In addition to an operating loss of $1.9 million in 2016, recent financial filings show WhereverTV posted a loss of $426,000 in 2015. Salaries for programmers and carriage agreements for programming make up the bulk of expenses, says Ciofani.
Cavicchia, the company founder, devised the video technology for WhereverTV while in China, when the digital developer sought a way to watch the 2005 NCCA men's basketball championships. Cavicchia took the company public in 2012.
Now, having become a “broadcaster with carriage rights,” as Ciofani likes to describe the company, WhereverTV aims to leverage a national trend of TV viewers cutting the cord with cable and satellite TV providers. And being internet-based, WhereverTV can offer advertisers on its programming something of significant value: viewer analytics.
“Every time an advertiser spends a dollar, he wants to know what he's getting,” Ciofani says. WhereverTV can tell the buyer just that.
With an eye toward promoting the programming it buys and creates, WhereverTV recently hired a Los Angeles digital marketing firm to help develop its online brand. The initial subscriber target is age 35 and up, a demographic for the news channels, travel shows and older movies and shows. And by year's end, the company plans to add 50 more channels. “Over the course of the next 12 months,” adds Ciofani, “we're going to be offering our own content.”
The company also hopes to build its brand, and reel in subscribers, with celebrity support. National country music artists Aaron Tippin and Darryl Worley, for example, recently signed agreements to become “brand ambassadors” with WhereverTV's Digital RodeoTV. Company officials hope more endorsement deals will be reached soon. Says Ciofani: “We're in conversations with rap artists, hip-hop people and rock 'n' roll people.”