By Jacob Nelson
The owner of kollide.tv, an online video platform with a multicultural focus, spoke on Monday to Aymar Jean Christian’s MSLCE class about his experiences in the media industry and the trajectory of his career.
Lateef Sarnor started kollide.tv last May, and has since been building up its programming and distribution. Before then, Sarnor worked as AOL’s Head of Multicultural Sales, Marketing and Strategy, BET’s Director of Brand Solutions and Black Enterprises’ Interactive Media Manager.
His decision to start his own business focused on multicultural media came in part from the realization that media audiences seemed increasingly receptive to it.
“Multi-cultural media is blowing up,” Sarnor said during his talk. “You’re starting to see a burgeoning influx of shows.”
He mentioned new television programs like “Empire” and “Fresh Off the Boat” as examples of shows that focus on non-white cultural experiences: “Fresh Off the Boat” is an ABC show that is the first American sitcom starring an Asian-American family, and “Empire” is a Fox show that centers on a hip hop music company.
“It’s not just black folks that are watching ‘Empire,’” Sarnor said, “It’s a much broader audience.”
In his discussion of his own company, Sarnor pointed to the different ways of tackling multicultural media. The big networks have a huge amount of money to support expensive, original productions — which means that smaller, online media companies need to find a different niche from which to focus.
That focus is on making kollide a way of distributing multicultural media rather than just producing it. Sarong said his video player is a platform for people to both find and distribute multicultural videos. It’s like YouTube, Sarnor said, but with a much narrower focus.
“We really see this as having a targeted option that fits the consumer,” Sarnor explained.
His discussion about kollide reflected a larger discussion about the direction of television, which he said would move away from channel packages towards unbundled channel and program choices. He hopes to support kollide with both advertising and subscriptions.
During the Q and A, Sarnor talked about some of the obstacles he ran into when starting his company, including raising funds from investors (he’s currently funding the company on his own).
“The challenges with companies that are content based its hard to get people to invest,” he said. “If it hinges on this one piece of content… Are you going to make your money back?”
Sarnor’s hope is that kollide proves successful enough that others begin to emulate it, increasing the exposure to and amount of multicultural media.
“I wanted to prove that there’s a model,” he said. “Between advertisers and the subscription piece maybe we circumvent going out and getting investments.”
Another student asked how he chose which cultural experiences he wanted to focus on within kollide. He said that, though diversity in the programming is his goal, the first thing he looks for in a program is its storytelling.
“At the core I’m trying to find really good shows,” he said. “To me there are universal truths around content. People care about strong characters, relatable story lines. They want to be entertained.”