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Fireside chat with William Sager, Chairman, Founder&CEO of The Preview Channel™

Who is William Sager?

I was born and raised in Manhattan NYC and went to the University of Wisconsin to study Radio TV and Film. I returned to NY and took a job in the basic cable and pay TV industry based in both NY and in Hollywood. From there I worked for some of the largest media companies in the world; from Google, Fujitsu, Hipcricket, idealab, Verizon Telecom, MGM/UA, Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable to the legendary ‘Z Channel’ in Los Angeles.

What’s the story behind The Preview Channel™?

In 2017 when the TV industry started to expand on Smart TV’s by streaming their channels and SVOD channels started to appear on streaming services like Amazon, I took a look around at what people and companies were creating and tried to see what didn’t exist that would be compelling enough for the average person to want to watch on TV. A category or genre of content that is beloved and could be of constant interest to the general public. Years ago there was a basic cable service called Movietime. They showed theatrical movie trailers, behind-the-scenes of movies in theaters, occasionally showing a commercial in between trailers. Eventually they were sold and they turned into what is now known as ‘E! Entertainment Television’. In 2017 there were no TV channels that featured theatrical motion picture previews that were running in movie theaters for audiences to see and once I fully imagined this channel in my head I didn’t want to call it a ‘trailer channel’ as that felt cheap to me, so instead ‘The Preview Channel’ was born. A quick trip to my computer and Godaddy confirmed I was on the right path – the domain was available.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

When I mentioned to people that I was going to put theatrical movie trailers and make a TV channel out of them, they thought I was nuts. Most often I heard, but it’s all available already on You Tube! Well, that’s true except one needs to know a title of a movie to find the trailer on You Tube. Plus linear TV, like the movies, are a lean back experience.

And convincing a Smart TV company to carry the channel and give us a chance.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

That as a little guy, not a large media company I was able to launch a viable 24/7 linear TV channel and get it distributed to millions of households throughout the US and Canada and soon internationally and that its working and people really enjoy watching it.

We expanded to include TV series that are carried on pay SVOD services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc. I’m especially happy that my kids love to watch it as well – kids are always a good barometer – who doesn’t go to the movies and watch TV?

What is your vision for the future of The Preview Channel™?

Tie in local movie theater ticketing – ticketing on demand so when you see a preview you want to see in the theaters, you can reserve a seat right away from your living room.
Reserve tickets should cost less than walk-in/up to theater tickets which should help prompt reservations.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

The streaming ‘linear’ TV business has quickly matured and is becoming the norm as mainstream ‘free’ TV. The players in this space are big media companies with huge libraries and deep pockets. They have years of content already in the can and available to stream on TV and are creating more new content and of course re-using older content. By way of example, Big Entertainment Company ‘X’ could create an ‘All In The Family’ channel or a ‘Cheers’ or ‘Friends’ Channel. Their cost is minimal. This makes the playing field tough for newcomers who must pay dearly for any kind of compelling content and then hope that enough eyes watch to give them a return – all the time doing battle for channel space and availability and eyeballs against all the other channels. An uphill climb for sure.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Encoding and file compression, Ad tech and streaming distribution platforms.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

‘Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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