Broadcast Entrepreneur Turns To Crowdfunding For New Effort

Eight days into a 50-day crowdfunding campaign to finance the launch of a new 24/7 locally focused national news network and Eric Wotila is about 5 percent of the way to his $100,000 goal.

“The primary reason we went with crowdfunding is we will be able to maintain control within our team and not have to go to a board to make decisions,” says Wotila, the entrepreneur behind the Local News Network (LNN).

Rather than rely on pundits, panels or what it calls “shout shows,” LNN will use the news wheel format along with live cut-ins that will be seen on all affiliates to deliver local news that’s relevant to local viewers, he says.

“We are in the process of developing in house and finalizing the ability to dynamically and automatically update the news wheels at our different affiliates with a video server that will go in each affiliate site,” he says.

The plan is to equip each LNN affiliate with a channel-in-a-box and reorder the rundown of stories based on the proximity of the story to the affiliate as well as the interest stories generate online, says Wotila.

While starting a new news network on $100,000 might seem ambitious, Wotila says he has a knack for operating on a shoestring budget.

Besides, once the network is up and running, commercial revenue will kick in, giving LNN additional resources, he says.

Wotila gained his experience broadcasting on a budget with the launch of MI News 26, a 24/7 local news channel serving viewers in northern Michigan, he says.

For example, Wotila bought a pair of used ENG trucks for $7,000 for MI News 26. New, they cost more than $100,000 apiece, he says. For LNN, Wotila has already acquired a secondhand network SNG truck

“Now we’ve got a fixer upper satellite truck,” he says. New the truck would cost $200,000 or more, but Wotila is confident he will be able to refurbish it for “a little money,” he says.

Wotila also plans to hold down costs by leveraging the studio currently being used by News 26, he says.

The falling price of used HD equipment, which is becoming easier to find as production houses are replacing their high-def equipment with 4K gear, will also save money, he says. “Buying slightly used helps keep things economical,” he says.

Wotila says he is hopeful the incentive program established for the LNN Kickstarter campaign will attract donations.

For instance, a $250 Kickstarter donation will be rewarded with one 15-second ad per day for the first three months the new channel is on air.

At the top tier, a $9,000 donation secures a title sponsorship entitling larger companies and national brands to be the signature sponsor of the new channel’s morning news.

If Wotila is unable to achieve his $100,000 goal, none of the pledged donations will be collected, and he will be forced to consider other options to pay for the launch, he says.

More information about the LNN launch and Kickstarter campaign is available online.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.