Last week LG15 Today broke news that EQAL was moving into a new business area, selling its software platform, dubbed Umbrella, to other content creators. The announcement was met with immediate skepticism and disappointment by long-time fans who have experienced the platforms short-comings first hand and who had hoped EQAL would return to producing web series. Nevertheless, there are several compelling reasons why launching Umbrella is a good move for EQAL.
Due to a lack of advertising support or another viable revenue stream, EQAL has stopped producing content. The final episode of the Resistance aired more than six months ago, and Greg stated that they are, at least for the time being, moving away from producing original content. Furthermore, when Greg said a few months ago that the economy is horrible and that there simply is little-to-no money for advertising, this was not just another in a long line of excuses. Advertising dollars are scarce and in a tight job market very few corporate executives want to draw attention to themselves by spending money in an unconventional way. Now is the time for executives to keep their heads down and hope no one notices they make six figures, taking three hour lunches. In order for EQAL to survive, they must do something else and while many might disagree, Umbrella plays directly into the company’s strengths.
Lonelygirl15 was a pioneer in online entertainment; however, creativity was never their strong suit. An inconsistent narrative, numerous plot-holes, and repetitive storylines plagued the entire run of lonelygirl. Where EQAL excelled was in creating relationships and leveraging their perceived and real position as new media leaders. Aside from a knack for casting very attractive actresses, promotion is what EQAL does best. Furthermore, at a glance, EQAL has a very impressive track record: two successful web series franchises, partnerships with CBS and other entertainment companies, founding member of the International Academy of Web Television. Also, they are well connected in the web series community and have several media partners. For any company looking to build a platform for their web content, EQAL is an attractive solution. In fact, EQAL has a very persuasive pitch, if you want to launch online content, if you want to build an online community, who better to assist you then the company that pioneered the modern web series?
Additionally, EQAL’s new project might well be the solution to the growing problem facing content producers, the need to cut through the clutter. There is a gluttony of videos on the web, finding a series, let alone a good series is an arduous task. EQAL could be the solution to this problem. If they created a gateway portal for new media entertainment, which could include web series or projects like Level26, they could become the destination site for individuals looking for online entertainment, beyond the meme of the day. Being a destination is the key to online success. Furthermore, it would give EQAL a second, very compelling selling point for their Umbrella service. Rather then simply selling a website package and a domain that sits afloat the internet like an island unto itself, EQAL would be selling membership in an exclusive area, in a destination that caters to individuals seeking quality online entertainment. In addition, to a website, they would be selling exposure, a tailor-made audience, and pool from which customers can build their fan base. This is something EQAL could market that would set it apart from Ning or other web hosting solutions.
In order to be successful in this new endeavor, however, there are a few things EQAL must do. First, EQAL must fix the LG15 website, in fact, they really should have done this before announcing Umbrella. Any serious potential customer will want to see the software platform in action before they consider purchasing it. LG15 is the project most closely related to EQAL; therefore, it is the site most likely to be visited by a potential customer. Second, EQAL should consider opening up at least a portion of Umbrella’s architecture. EQAL has had a great deal of success in the past with cloud projects, with harnessing the power of its community, and there is no reason for them to stop doing so. Also, people simply like open source projects, they have built in good will and positive PR and it is something that people are expecting more often. Last but not least, it is free development, something a cash strapped company cannot afford to overlook. EQAL’s in house programmers simply cannot create every possible application potential users might need. Also, third party apps are a major component of social networking sites and are something individuals like and expect.
The future of EQAL’s latest venture, Umbrella, is not predestined. Details about the project are nearly non-existent, and as with most projects its success or failure is dependent upon the individuals in charge of implementation. What is certain is that EQAL is moving away from its comfort zone and into a highly competitive market. Hopefully, they will not end up metaphorically strapped to a gurney with the life sucked out of them by the established order.