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Behind The Surf Channel: Founder Steve Bellamy


What type of content will your audience find on the Surf Channel?

We are going to be very heavy on Surf Films. We have only announced that we are launching with Bruce Browns legendary “Endless Summer,” thus far, but we will coming out with a programming announcement shortly that will feature a myriad of programming initiatives and partners. In addition to films, there will be events, series and short form with a healthy mix of acquired content and original programming. We are a great place to integrate with if you are a content partner with a big library and a lot of that library isn’t being seen anymore. On the film side especially, it is amazing how many masterpieces are sitting on shelves and haven’t been seen for decades.

On the original programming side, we are definitely story-tellers, character-lovers and I am personally very involved in programming. Most network CEO’s don’t even know the names of the shows on-air, I literally write, direct and am in the edit bays near daily. A great example of the programming feel that we want to bring to surf can be found in the films that we have made at The Ski Channel. Again, these were films I personally wrote and directed and spent 100′s of hours in edit bays with. “Winter” starred the angel I hope is on my shoulder, Sarah Burke, as well as Simon Dumont, Mike Wilson, Sean Pettit and a cast of incredible characters. The music was done by the band BUSH and the narration was done by a two time Academy Award winner (you have to watch it to find out who.) “The Story” starred Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Mike Douglass, Chris Davenport and Bobby Brown. Both films had huge near 2000 people Hollywood premieres and won tons of film festivals. “Winter” actually is opening the Bel Aire Film Festival next month. The documentary that we did on Shane McConkey was also indicative of what we like to do.

Why do you think there is an opportunity for this sort of network in the industry?

If am answering your question correctly, it is simply because their isn’t one. That is likely a product of the fact that the competitions are so television unfriendly. Sports on television love timed length activity. They want to start broadcasting at 6PM and get off the air at 8PM with a winner. Surfing is the antithesis of that. In my opinion to make this channel work, you have to go a completely different direction. It has to be very heavily story, character and lifestyle driven. And, that is why it is so personally appealing to me.

Surfing is what it is to the surf community. But to the general population, The Surf Channel will be a travel channel and a lifestyle channel in addition to a sports channel. That creates a palate to paint on like no other. Baseball, basketball, football, golf, racing, soccer, college sports and of course Tennis and Ski all have their own successful channels. Yet none of those can really take you where The Surf Channel will be able to take you. Most of the population of the country experiences a reasonable degree of cold weather. The Surf Channel will give them the most exotic beach locations in the world. The Surf Channel will tell stories about surfers who have devoted their lives to this way of life in a way that few people have devoted anytime to anything.

What’s the biggest challenge you foresee for the company moving forward?

I am not seeing any specific elephant at the end of the bar type of challenge in the near future. Its all hard. Just getting a step and repeat to show up to the right location at an event…getting the cable operator service rep to give the consumers the right information….keeping eight edit bays working everyday with no crashes….It’s all hard, but nothing stands out now that we have gotten the critical mass of cable and satellite carriage. Getting the distribution is by far and away the hardest thing in television and we are over that large portion of that hurdle. There is very little bandwidth and you are fighting for that bandwidth against ESPN, Viacom and all these other big media vehicles that pour 100′s of millions every year into attaining and keeping their distribution. But again we have checked that box.

What have you learned from creating The Surf Channel?

There are some AMAZING people in the surf industry. How incredible is Pat O’Connell at Hurley? How great is Bob McKnight at Quiksilver? James Leitz at IMG is a spectacular guy. Every athlete we interview is so kind, wonderful and endearing. I had no idea there was such a treasure chest of people in the space. It is going to be so easy to program the network with an industry of people who are so accommodating.

How will you measure the success of this network? Where would you like to see the surf channel is 6 to 12 months?

First and foremost, we want to get fully distributed on cable, satellite, and telco. Again for the uninitiated, getting cable and satellite distribution is like climbing Mt. Everest. Although we have the critical mass, it will take 6 to 12 months to finish. And the technical end of it is crazy complicated and time consuming. Second, I want us to be in many mutually beneficial partnerships with endemic media companies, brands, and athletes. And, I want all those partners to appreciate our position in the space and utilize our platform for their own benefits. Lastly, it is very important to us to have a great digital presence. We hope folks will interact with us at these points of contact as well.

 

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