Lucy has more lovers these days and the talking horse is playing in more than 140 countries, thanks to a series of deals struck by Henderson-based TV4U.com (www.tv4u.com).
Anyone buying a Hewlett-Packard computer can fire up old episodes of "I Love Lucy," "Mr. Ed," or any of more than 11,000 vintage television programs and commercials. The HP QuickPlay software now features seven channels of programming, and users of Lycos (www.lycos.com) and Joost (www.joost.com) will soon be glued to their on-demand video offerings, according to Tom Ficara, founder of TV4U and its parent company, Margate Entertainment.
Why is old TV so hot? Ficara thinks it's all about a person's life story.
"It's no different than your oldies music channels," he said. "For those who lived through it, it's the soundtrack of their lives. I put on 'Roy Rogers' and it took me back to sitting in my house in Chicago when I was 8 years old. It's part of our being.
"It's like sitting in the attic and looking at old pictures. For today's kids it's like an Easter suit. It's new to them. It's good. The stuff that's on TV now, I can't imagine it ever being on an oldies channel," he said.
Ficara said his deals with HP, Lycos and Joost have the potential to extend his viewership by millions of people. The HP channels have already launched. Joost will launch five channels on Halloween and Lycos plans to launch three channels on Thanksgiving.
"Lycos has 22 million members. We can't compete with that. We'll be the most-watched channels on Joost. They tried to copy us, but they don't have a library," Ficara said. About 10,000 programs are viewed daily, and Ficara expects that to grow to 1 million daily views by the end of the year.
It's all about building a network and getting broad distribution of the content. "It's more like stores than television channels. It's like putting your stuff in Best Buy, Circuit City and Wal-Mart. It's not really competition because the Internet is so vast. The common denominator is the advertiser attached to the show," he said.
His company recently opened a sales office in New York.
"Our sponsors include Geico, a Lasik center, Ashworth University and Jenny Craig. If you're 35 or older, are fat, can't see and you need insurance, we're your channel," Ficara said.
TV4U is watched online in 142 countries even tough it hasn't done promotion outside the U.S. and Canada. "We have a deal with Hearst to set up e-commerce in all 142 countries. 'Mr. Ed' T-shirts will be worn by kids in Romania. We're already in the top 100,000 sites in the United Kingdom, and we're big not only in Israel but also in the Palestinian territory. It's Mr. Ed diplomacy. The problem is, they were always going in with the wrong end of the horse."
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