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Broadcast news and the ‘Netflix effect’

A proof-of-concept for a streaming news platform is being developed by Executive MBA participants at Cambridge Judge Business School.

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Becoming a technology entrepreneur

Following careers in both the army and wealth management, Stephen Lile of Portland, Oregon, was given the opportunity to co-found his first technology company in 2000. “I got tired of moving bags of money from one side of the vault to the other side of the vault, and getting rich in the process. Instead, I wanted to build something of value, create jobs and have a sense of enterprise.”

Stephen Lile (EMBA 2016)

Stephen Lile (EMBA 2016)

Since then, Stephen has co-founded three more technology companies, most recently The Perfect Company, which makes ‘smart’ kitchen products that connect to the internet. On the advice of his investors, he is developing what he hopes to be the first global ad-sponsored streaming news network of its kind: Eyewit.

Crowd-sourcing the news

The idea for the news network came to Stephen after observing the growing number of “TV refugees” that are deserting traditional cable and satellite TV formats.

“Research suggests that there will be 120 million TV refugees in the United States by 2020, and another 16 million in the UK. This ‘Netflix effect’ is driving millions of households away from broadcast news services and towards the internet.”

Eyewit is a cross-platform app that will offer users live-streamed news broadcasts for free. The ‘news’ will come from two main sources: an official ‘carousel’ of the day’s news curated by university-based anchor desks, and a community of crowd-sourcing journalists that upload their own content. An AI engine would help to connect both sources during live broadcasts, and individualise crowd-sourced content for viewers.

Battling fake news, extremism and radicalism

Whilst Eyewit aims to disrupt the traditional business model of broadcast journalism, its social mission is to encourage free access to the news amongst the growing number of smart-phone users across the developing world.

“The goal of Eyewit is to battle fake news, extremism and radicalism with news from the free world, which can ultimately upend authoritarian regimes who have kept their citizens in the dark and controlled the news media for many years. Eyewit would always be the first news agency on location because the world is our reporter. This is a very disruptive force, and will serve to advance the cause of democracy.”

Returning to university

Basing news anchor desks out of universities is an important measure, therefore, to ensure the platform’s integrity when advocating journalistic freedom across the globe. To develop this angle, Stephen was advised to return to university himself, and develop it as a proof-of-concept through an Executive MBA programme.

“My investors said that I should jump into one of [Oxford or Cambridge’s] Executive MBA programmes, thinking there was no better way to network than to become and actual student! I came to Cambridge for one visit, called my wife and told her, ‘Honey, I’m a Cambridge man!’ This was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Stephen started the Cambridge EMBA in September 2016, and is developing Eyewit as a Team Consulting Project with fellow EMBA participants. This project is a compulsory part of the EMBA programme, and allows participants to focus on a business challenge they – or the organisation they represent – are facing.

Making the most of the EMBA experience

Each year, the Cambridge EMBA brings together a class of talented, energetic and creative team players, diverse in both professional experience and nationality. Stephen’s own class represents 28 nationalities and over 30 industry sectors, a perfect network to utilise when developing a global project such as Eyewit. The programme also allows Stephen to take stock of his achievements, and evaluate where his career is headed next. “The EMBA is a departure from the madness, and it’s an oasis of wonderment to me. It’s like going to Hogwarts. I’m both student and mentor here. I literally have 80 new best friends, and I love them all. I’m considering sticking around a bit longer to get a PhD, but I’d like to be a mentor for other entrepreneurs and act as a conduit to Silicon Valley. I’m still sorting it out, but whatever happens, it’s going to be a great ride.”