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Eight years ago, Byron Allen sat at his dining room table turned office in his Los Angeles home with a price on his head. The very home in which he was sitting was mortgaged to the hilt. and although Allen didn’t have a dime in his pocket, he had a million dollar idea in his head.
The 41-year-old Detroit native knew that major studios, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, carried over enormous budgets to promote their upcoming feature films. If they funded him to “interview” the celebrities on air, they would be, in turn, advertising their films for a fraction of what a 30-second commercial typically costs to produce. But he had to prove that he could market and sell the show, Entertainers With Byron Allen, all on his own.
Allen says in 1994 he called some 1,300 TV stations to sell the show himself. “I asked them to carry the television show for free on a barter basis. All of them said ‘no’ an average of 40 times per station. After 40,000 no’s, I finally got 140 yes’ and that was a yes from New York to Waterloo, Iowa,” explains Allen from the conference table of his posh Century City, California, offices. Entertainers, now in its eighth year of syndication, is a weekly gabfest with celebrities. Since launching it in 1994, Allen has added other shows to the roster. CF Entertainment, Allen’s production and distribution company, now syndicates eight different shows, including Kickin’ It With Byron Allen, Every Woman, and Destination Stardom.
In 2000, Allen took his shows to the Web. In addition to the shows, visitors to EntertainmentStudios.com can view hundreds of celebrity interviews online. Allen has in effect created a digital archive of entertainment news and interviews on the Web, which is no small feat. And he recently added an e-commerce arm to the site. “We’ve built an entertainment network and superstore, which, to me, was a natural extension. I’ve got over 800 hours of television shows and 1,500 celebrity interviews. I thought that the Web would be a wonderful way to make that content available 24/7,” says Allen. Additionally, EntertainmentStudios.com offers an affiliate program that lets businesses link to the site and earn a 4% commission on products that their visitors purchase from EntertainmentStudios.com.
With nearly 2 million weekly visitors, Allen says the site is a natural draw because of the content–all of which is free. “We do not have to spend money on the content. We already have it from our television shows.” The site is a mixture of entertainment and e-commerce. Visitors can read entertainment news, browse celebrity interviews, and take virtual tours of celebrity homes using ipix software; at last check, Whoopi Goldberg’s country home and Julio Iglesias’ plane were the star attractions. In addition to celebrity news and interviews, visitors can purchase everything from CDs to fine art to sports memorabilia–then head to the Chat area to discuss their purchases or their favorite stars.
For Allen, this new venture is the evolution of movies and