The Fourth Annual Inc Web Awards: Transformations
Company: slp3D, in Hartford
What we liked: A regional TV-production company reinvents itself as an Internet broadcaster with a medical specialty and a nationwide audience
Ross Joel and Peter Gailey were fed up with bad hours and bad news. Joel, an early-morning and weekend anchor at a Hartford NBC affiliate, and Gailey, a producer at the same station, had spent years covering fires, car wrecks, and blizzards. Both wanted out.
So nine years ago Joel and Gailey quit and launched their own production company, Storyline Pictures (later updated to slp3D). The pair dreamed of creating James Cameron-style blockbusters. But with little call for such work in Connecticut, they focused instead on freelance TV and video projects.
Working out of their homes at first, the two men produced shows for ESPN and Home & Garden Television, among others. They also made videos for clients as diverse as the Otis Elevator Co., Foxwoods Resort Casino, the Hartford Life Insurance Group, and a local hospital. "The TV shows were fun and high profile," Joel recalls. "But the corporate programs had a much better profit margin." With young families to support, the founders concentrated on wooing those deep-pocketed companies.
But by the mid 1990s, even the corporate business had leveled off. As video equipment became cheaper and easier to use, competitors popped up everywhere. "You could throw a stick down the street and hit a dozen other production companies," Gailey recalls.
Meanwhile, the two former newshounds were hearing a lot about the Internet. After some digging, they discovered several emerging technologies, particularly streaming video and webcasting, that seemed tailored to TV-style presentations. Says Joel, "You're just choosing a different medium for distribution."
Although the comparison made sense to Joel and Gailey, it took a while to persuade their clients. The jerky, crash-prone quality of early streaming video made matters worse. But as bandwidth increased, so did the quality of on-line video -- and slp3D's customers' interest in the technology. As Joel and Gailey started scheduling Web projects, they noticed a pattern: about 75% of their gigs involved hospitals and surgical-equipment manufacturers. So in 1999 they further narrowed their niche. First, they went Internet-only, dropping the videotape part of their business. Second, they limited themselves to health-care clients, hoping to become that industry's favorite venue for on-line video and webcasting.
The strategy worked. Slp3D now has 17 employees and annual revenues of more than $2.8 million. The company has produced on-demand and live coverage of medical conferences, product launches, and surgeries ranging from cardiac catheterization to knee replacement. An slp3D video about groundbreaking diabetic foot surgery at a Boston hospital generated patient referrals from as far away as Croatia and Japan.
Anne Stuart is a senior writer at Inc.
The Fourth Annual Inc Web Awards
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