KINGSTON, N.Y. — HUDSY TV is looking to take streaming with a focus on carefully curated high-quality content.
It enters a crowded field dominated by media and tech giants like Disney+, Netlfix, and Amazon.
Jesse Brown, who founded the company with Laura Kandel and Angel Gates, launched an app found on smartphones, tablets, and Smart TV platforms two months ago, after establishing the company about 1 1/2 years ago.
HUDSY is a fixture at area events like Harambee’s African American Festival in Kingston, with Brown and Gates often tabling under a HUDSY-branded tent while content creators, wearing T-shirts featuring the company’s signature light blue color, circle the event shooting footage for projects.
Brown said in a Zoom interview that HUDSY is all about representing communities.
“The local media is quite small,” he said. “We see a space to carve out, a space that’s missing in the large entertainment films.”
Gates referred to a 55-minute HUDSY documentary on Kingston High graduate and former Harlem Globetrotter and Siena College star Tay Fisher, titled “Firefly.” While Fisher may never be profiled on ESPN’s “30 for 30,” his story is really worth being heard and HUDSY offers such a platform, he said.
“Tay’s such a beautiful person,” Brown said.
Brown said they were able to help fund local filmmaker Chris Nostrand through HUDSY’s community content fund. Gates said HUDSY seeks to empower artists and filmmakers.
“How can we support local content?” Gates said. “There’s a big misconception about what local content is.”
Gates said HUDSY is emphasizing quality with storytelling and visuals that are really powerful. “There are really amazing, talented people here, and HUDSY is trying to give them a platform, Gates said.
Gates said HUDSY’s four- to six-month paid apprenticeship program teaches people to become filmmakers. They’re seeking people across a diverse spectrum of age, race, and gender to empower people to share stories, he added.
The program, led by Rob Harris, a former New York Times video journalist, teaches apprentices skills such as setting up interviews along with pre-and post-production. Gates said one of their graduates is now traveling the United States with PBS.
HUDSY is coming on the scene in a media landscape that is moving toward streaming as more and more people cut the cord with cable television, removing any possibility of local, Laura Kandel said. “When you cut cable, you cut access to local news,” Kandel said.
Kandel said this means thinking beyond just 30-minute shows or clickbait content and more about individual pieces that share news about the community. In the long run, she added, they like to bring on board staff to produce more actual local news in a video format.
Brown said, unlike Silicon Valley titans, HUDSY is less about tech and more human. “There’s a lot of transactional relationships,” he said. “We think there is a model with more connection with the community,” he said.
He added that while he appreciates the large corporate platforms that exist, he wants to give more of the resources back to the community and artists, not just to large shareholders.
Said Gates, “We live in the same community. When someone bumps into us at Mother Earth, we ask how their family is doing,”
Brown said he got the inspiration for this model when he lived in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and worked at a community-run snowboard magazine that blended original content and items shared by other creatives. “I got to experience what local distribution is,” he said.
He added that he later met Gates and Kandel also joined in.
HUDSY works on a cooperative model that seeks to spread the wealth among more than just a few, with a worker class and an artist class provisioned among the company’s ownership structure. “If the company does well everyone else can share in,” he said. “With tech companies’ acquisition strategy people behind it get rich and everyone else is holding the bag.
“Even in the pandemic we saw the largest transfer of wealth to rich people,” he said.
HUDSY’s in-house production company is known as HUDSY Originals. Kandel said she envisions HUDSY also offering people a chance to get off the couch and get together in person for events showing the content being created.
“I’ve never seen a Netflix event,” she said. “We’ve been out for two months, and we had six or seven events.
The platform does have some guidelines. Kandel said it must have some connection to the Hudson Valley, either it being made there, about there, or about someone from the region. In addition, it can’t be “widely offensive,” Kandel said.
As for what constitutes the Hudson Valley, Gates said HUDSY’s coverage area ranges from Nyack in Rockland County to Albany and even into the Berkshires. In regards to the right kind of story HUDSY is looking for, Gates said they rely on a content committee, word of mouth, and stories in area newspapers they feel can be told well with a visual component.
“We want to do a story justice, with cameras and a crew, while celebrating the region,” Gates said. “That’s more or less how we’re approaching content.”
And when they get a story wrong, they want to create a sense of accountability amid a landscape of eroding trust in media outlets. “We believe getting back on the local level will bring some trust in this space,” he said.
Brown does not view established print or other media organizations as competitors. Instead, he likes to envision how he can collaborate with them on stories. “We’re not here to replace anybody,” Brown said. “We want to build something that will take us into the future.”
He said while these stories are local, he hopes they’ll be appreciated across the world. Returning to the business model, he spoke of a triple bottom line that includes people and place, not just profit.
And Gates has a message for those hesitant to add yet another subscription to their monthly bills.
“You’re paying for an idea, not just paying for pure entertainment,” he said.
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