It’s really quite fitting that Jake Sasseville, host of "Late Night Republic," started his career in entertainment as a magician. He was just a kid back then, but at age 25 Sasseville’s still getting his kicks, and his cash, bewildering audiences with his charm and larger-than-life personality.
Much like his iconic late-night counterparts, he’s the kind of guy who can make the ordinary seem delightful, even hilarious. But Sasseville isn’t trying to disguise himself as the new Conan.
His version of late-night TV, "Late Night Republic," targets a younger audience and it’s revolutionizing television production by doing the unthinkable; allowing viewers to do more than just stare at their flat screens. Sasseville encourages his audience to help create the show itself. He offers a few business lessons in what it took to get LNR, currently seen in more than 50 million U.S. homes on Fox and CW, off the ground.
Lesson one: Don’t give up
It has taken years for Sasseville to learn how to brainstorm, produce, and host his own late-night show without breaking the bank. He had his first experience with television production when he was still a teenager. He and a team of friends bought time on their local public access channel in Maine and taught themselves the basics of getting a show on the air.
The result of these efforts was "The Edge with Jake Sasseville," which eventually found its way to ABC after "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in 2008. But the cost of buying his own airtime outweighed the money he was receiving from advertisers, and "The Edge" stopped airing on ABC after just a few weeks.
Sasseville was back at square one. He had to figure out a way to get back on his feet, and back on the air, without spending any more of his own money. Luckily, he still had his old bag of tricks and a lot of what he calls “bounce-back-ability.” Sasseville, who had believed since childhood that the performance art he created could serve as a career option, was not willing to give up hope.
“There’s no better lesson than failure,” Sasseville said.
Furthermore, once he had a taste of what it would be like to work for himself doing something he loves, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“Being an entrepreneur is a chronic disease. You can’t get rid of it,” he said.
With some hard-earned life experience under his belt, Sasseville headed back to New York City to drum up support for a new foray into television. But this time, he wouldn’t have to go it alone.
Lesson two: Hire a good attorney
Attorney Travis Granfar, now executive producer of LNR, was presumably not horsing around in a suburban TV station during his high school years. He was probably doing something practical like running for class president. Needless to say, he and Sasseville are an unlikely match, but a great one none the less.
Granfar had recently resigned from a job practicing corporate law when a mutual friend introduced him to Sasseville. Granfar immediately recognized his passion and charm, but what really struck him was Sasseville’s predilection for hard work. It wasn’t long before they were brainstorming ideas for their new business venture.
“He’s a [person] whose goals include having a successful company, but that’s not really where he’s most focused,” Granfar told BusinessNewsDaily.
Luckily, running a successful small business is exactly where Granfar’s interests lie.
“I want to make sure we have a company, a brand, staying power,” he said.
Granfar and Sasseville provide a valuable lesson in business partnerships. Namely, that a successful partnership is comprised of people who share different talents but similar goals. This dynamic duo approach to building a successful entertainment company has worked for some of the best-known (and richest) entertainers on the planet, including Oprah, Bono and Rosie O’Donnell.
Lesson three: Get everybody involved
Sasseville said his show is really about “bringing people together in all the wrong ways,” and he's passionate about involving his audience in the creative process.
“People don’t feel included in the television process … [they] want to feel engaged but they’ve been told that they can’t,” he said.
What Sasseville particularly tries to avoid, however, is something that he calls the “illusion of inclusion.” He doesn’t simply want fans to follow LNR on Twitter or like their Facebook page. Sasseville thinks his audience is capable of a lot more than just clicking a mouse, and he lets them know it by keeping his show smart and inviting viewers to submit content.
Granfar, also passionate about democratizing the world of television, explains, “We want to empower people to become co-creators with us.”
Lesson four: Stay practical
Luckily for their business, the idealism that Granfar and Sasseville embody is countered by a healthy dose of practicality. Is the task of getting American audiences to participate in the creative process an easy one? Admittedly, it is not.
But that’s why Granfar likes to enforce something he calls “scarcity thinking.” In other words, both financially and creatively he focuses on laying a basic foundation for success. LNR knows it can’t win over the entire American public at once, so they take things day by day. Slowly but surely they expand their business and their imagination.
“It’s just about rebelling and figuring out how to break the system,” Sasseville said.
And even Granfar, the former corporate attorney, will tell you, “Sometimes the rules don’t work and they need to be changed.”
Lesson five: Be creative
Perhaps the most revolutionary component of LNR is its approach to advertising. Ever since Granfar came along, LNR’s business model has become more sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean he’s replaced Sasseville’s original sponsor-funded approach with corporate investment.
LNR has adopted an "experiential advertising" model, but they’ve taken it even further. Part of their campaign to promote the show was a road trip sponsored by FRS Energy Drink, a product created and endorsed by Lance Armstrong. Their van stopped at college campuses around the country, giving Sasseville an opportunity to meet face-to-face with potential fans while also creating a lot of hype for his sponsor. LNR has similar advertising deals with Pringles and State Farm.
“It’s cool to have that personal relationship with our fans … it’s unprecedented,” Sasseville said.
Final lesson: Keep learning
Anyone who’s ever tried to start his or her own business knows that there are hundreds of lessons to be learned, and that sometimes they need to be learned the hard way. For Sasseville, it took near bankruptcy to get his most successful venture yet off the ground. He’s learned to dust himself off and keep trying. He’s also discovered that building strong business relationships is a key to success.
As for Granfar, he’s also done plenty of learning. This Wall Street attorney turned TV underdog has learned that some of the most fulfilling careers are those driven by passion and imagination. He’s also found out that a person who can’t think in terms of business models might still be a successful business person due to other strengths, such as natural intuitiveness and the ability to work well with others.
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