The next time you have a pedicure, after choosing the polish color you want, look at the screen on the wall and you might watch the new Atmosphere Entertainment channel.
There will be no sound. Atmosphere creates and manages channels to play on the screens of 25,000 businesses ranging from bars, restaurants and auto repair shops to gyms, nail salons and doctor’s offices – places where programming will be seen and not heard.
Atmosphere Entertainment is the third live broadcast channel created by the company, after Atmosphere News and Atmosphere Sports. CEO Leo Resig said Broadcast + Cable that live channels offering business news, weather, and health and wellness information are on the way.
The constantly updated live channels join approximately 60 static channels filled with viral videos from sites, including YouTube, that Atmosphere licenses directly from their creators. Channels also include Red Bull TV, The Bob Ross Channel and World Poker Tour.
“We deploy a new channel every two to four weeks. There is no exact cadence. We are looking at viewership data for certain channels,” Resig said.
Channels are designed for the type of business in which they are likely to appear. The clientele of nail salons are mostly women, many of whom are interested in movies, TV shows, and celebrity news.
“If we have a great idea for a channel, we launch it. If it falls flat, we’ll put our tail between our legs and quietly pull the channel out and replace it with a new one,” he said.
Atmosphere does not charge companies for its channels. It generates revenue by selling advertisement based on business type, location, time of day, customer base and other factors.
Like programming, advertising on Atmosphere must work without sound.
“We work with our advertisers to create effective, proven ad units that are very text-heavy and sometimes just static,” Resig said. “We have quite a few motion designers who work directly with the agency or the brand.”
Major advertisers include Nestlé and Burger King, which recently aired a simple 30-second spot that was a static image of a new product it was launching. Some ads are images or videos framed with writing in an L-shaped box on the screen. Some ads allow viewers to get more information about a product by scanning a QR code.
Around 50% of Atmosphere’s viewership is in bars and restaurants, so it is popular with beer and spirits distributors like AB InBev.
For Brown-Forman’s Old Forester, Atmosphere produced a turtle race that took over all channels running in bars for four minutes. “It was our first takeover of the network,” Resig said. “It was ridiculous and unbelievable. It’s a testament to the power of the networks we create that we can cut for live events.
Atmosphere channels are broadcast at Meineke auto repair shops and Hooters restaurants. Hooters has an annual beauty pageant that appears on YouTube. This year, the contest aired at Hooters restaurants on one of Atmosphere’s channels.
Channels are delivered over broadband using a specially equipped Apple TV box that will only play Atmosphere channels. Through its boxes, Atmosphere knows what is broadcast in the establishments. It uses metrics company Epicenter to estimate how many viewers it gets for ad buyers.
Resig said Atmosphere’s networks reach 65 million people a month. “We are on track to nearly double the size of our network by the end of the year, when we will reach over 100 million people per month. It’s a real scale in the advertising world,” he said.
Resig and his brother John started TheChive.com, a website that aggregated viral photos and videos in 2008. After it became popular, the brothers sat in a bar. Judge Judy played on a single screen. sports center was no other. One basketball game was on top of another. They worked with Roku to create a TV channel called Chive TV. The solicited bar owners asked if they wanted family-friendly viral videos on their screens. “A thousand people emailed us saying we’d love to have this in our business, and that’s how we started,” he said. Chive TV remains Atmosphere’s most popular channel. “It’s really good. It’s hard to stop looking at it,” he said.
Atmosphere has gone through three funding rounds, raising $140 million, valuing the company at just under $1 billion, Resig said. The company has 450 full-time employees, most at its headquarters in Austin, Texas. It also has ad sales offices in New York. Los Angeles and Chicago.
Resig did not reveal how much the company earns, but said revenue had tripled in the past year as businesses recovered from the pandemic. He said he expects revenue to triple again this year.
With Atmosphere Entertainment on the air, Resig plans to launch three more live channels over the next two months. Atmosphere will have its version of a business news channel like Bloomberg or CNBC, followed by a weather channel. “Weather affects everyone,” he said. “We are going to have fun with this channel. We will do a lot of viral weather videos.
Finally, there will be a channel with health and wellness content. There are hundreds of thousands of media office waiting rooms that have substandard TVs and content, he noted.
Channels are updated 24/7 by a team of around 40 in-house editors. It allows data feeds for sports scores and weather forecasts, as well as images and videos from the AP, Getty Image and other sources. It also licenses equipment directly to sports leagues.
Atmosphere is starting to make its way into airports. Its first major airport customer is in Salt Lake City. It is also looking to expand internationally, with 2,000 international locations, primarily in Canada and the UK. The company just added 300 locations with a chain of gyms in Norway, Resig said.
Without audio, “you don’t need to speak English to enjoy most of our channels,” he said. ■