Cars are among the most popular Web page topics, from paeans to various lost automobiles to an online version of the popular Car Talk radio show. While there is a need for such frivolity, the Auto Channel fills the need for any car enthusiast to know the facts and the details, compare models, inspect trends and stay ahead of all things automotive.
The site, which began life as a syndicated cable TV show, provides as much depth as anyone would want, offering visitors every automotive experience short of actually kicking the tires.
“This is the promise of interactive TV really happening,” said company president Bob Gordon. “The Internet gives us the ability to deliver unedited content to the people who really want it.” Many of the events are restricted by location–shutting out anyone who isn’t in Detroit. And even if you lived in the Motor City, there is a chance that you couldn’t attend without a press pass. So anyone who really cares about the details about a certain new car introduction or automotive engineering briefing can just log on and relax.
Gordon was first convinced of the power of the Internet in 1995 when a friend invited him over to look at an early connection. Pretty soon, they were checking out real estate in Oslo, Norway, and he came to the conclusion that online video was the logical next step. “People thought we were nuts,” he recalls. “But then we did our first introduction of a new car online, which was very popular.” In January 1996 it first went online, and the TV service was shut down shortly afterwards.
The site itself is a colorful, multi-leveled experience. There are direct links to a variety of newsworthy events. Price guides for new and used cars give consumers an opportunity to make wiser buying decisions. The only thing missing is the opportunity to purchase the cars themselves. Says Gordon, “We are an editorial site, we are not in the car business.”
The company, with a valuation of $5 million, began with bootstrap funding and has since sustained itself with advertising revenues. Up to this point, there’s been no need to go outside of these sources for funding, but this will now change. According to Gordon, “We’ve now made the decision to look for outside funding. I think it won’t take us all that long to become a billion dollar company.”
A cash infusion, he adds, will allow significant expansion of available content. For example, the site now provides streaming audio from the top racetracks. Down the road (so to speak) it would offer coverage from every racetrack in the country, or eventually the world.
“They have a tremendous amount of content,” said Jonathan Goldsmith, principal at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles. “It is very thoughtfully organized. They are TV people, and bring with them a wealth of experience. They understand what’s happening with regard to streaming media. As a result, they know what people want and will be able to deliver it easily.”
In a Nutshell:
Company Name: The Auto Channel
Address: 624 West Main St, Louisville, Ky. 40202
Contact e-mail address: [email protected]
Web address: http://www.theautochannel.com
Total Funding: $5 million
Investor: Bootstrap and cash flow from advertising
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