BIG Explores Avenues for Alternative Revenues

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Brooklyn Interactive Group Team on production site

Brookline Interactive Group's Kathy Bisbee shares how she created alternative revenue goals that would build over time and avoided drastic overnight policy changes.

Like other PEG operations, Brookline Interactive Group, an independent nonprofit community media center serving Brookline, MA, continues to see its main funding source – cable fees – steadily drop. In an effort to replace those dollars, BIG has explored creative ways to build community interest and financial support.

Over the past four years, BIG has charged for memberships, developed a donor base and received grants The center also offers fee-based production classes, is available for paid production work, and has even expanded its offerings with live streaming services. Kathy Bisbee, BIG executive director, is renegotiating the community media center’s contract with the town as well, so it can get paid to produce extra meeting coverage and receive a higher percentage of the cable fees. BIG has also created websites, provided tech support, managed social media campaigns and supported other audio-visual needs of the town, schools and nonprofits, and is currently piloting these as fee-based communications services.

BIG has also launched nontraditional education initiatives, which Bisbee said is an extension of the community service they have always performed. For example, virtual reality training programs are helping local nonprofits produce 360-degree video and audio projects. The BIG crew then brings its VR headsets to charity events so donors can see what their contributions are helping to build. BIG also gives local creators production grants, with a focus on reaching underrepresented residents, of up to $6,000 annually, bringing in greater diversity and including new voices.

Another pilot program has BIG collaborating with a drone school for youth. Not only can a participant earn 40 hours toward their pilot’s license, they also learn how to fly a drone, which can be used to shoot video for a variety of projects. “Innovative media production is the future,” Bisbee said. “We’re so much more than just public access or television.”

So, what can your organization do to replace dwindling franchise fees? Fee-based production services are an obvious revenue stream. However, communities as well as the organizations and government agencies within them are used to getting access to equipment and crews for free, so there may be some resistance at first.

Bisbee said the best strategy is a gradual approach. Create revenue goals that build over a period of time, and avoid introducing a drastic overnight change in policies. Explain your value and new relevance so customers and clients understand the future of community media is no longer rooted in fees from cable television, but something they themselves must support at the local level.

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