I am really excited about this week’s .TV Spotlight post as I have a very special guest interview with Michael H. Berkens, President of MostWantedDomains.com and author of the extremely popular blog domain industry blog TheDomains.com. Michael and I spoke over the phone at length about the .TV space and this interview is all about Michael’s views on investing in .TV domains!
Before we get to the interview I want to remind my readers to sign up for the DomainStore.TV newsletter if you haven’t already. DomainStore.tv is the sponsor of my weekly TV Spotlight post and Brian Berke, founder of DomainStore really provides a great resource to buy and sell quality .TV domains at great prices.
There have been some fantastic .TV sales over the last week which I am not going to cover in this weeks post. I recommend checking out AllThings.tv for a full rundown of those most recent .TV sales. AllThings.tv does a great job of covering sales, sightings and news related to .TV.
On to the interview:
Mike Law: What was your first experience with .TV Domains? When did you start investing in .TV and why?
Michael Berkens: My first .TV name and only .TV domain for many years was Great.tv. I basically envisioned it as being a site where we could highlight and facilitate discussion of the top TV shows and talk about the programs we loved or hated. It was a development idea we had that we actually never got around to. Great.tv was a premium name and we spent alot of money on it, as it cost $3,000 /year for renewal. Up until March of this year it was the only .TV domain we owned. Of course, the thing that kept me away from .TV up until this year was the huge renewal costs for premium names, I didn’t think it was a competitive product. Now that the premium renewals have been eliminated to a large extent, .TV is one of the extensions that we invest in. I think it’s viable for particular purposes and certain situations. I do think it’s a great extension but it’s not a universal extension like a .com.
Mike Law: After the .TV premium renewal re-launch and gold rush in March, how many .TV domains are in your portfolio now?
Michael Berkens: About one hundred names, I would have owned more but unfortunately that particular night in March when they released the premiums kind of late into the evening it was one of the few nights I wasn’t up late online and so I kind of missed the whole experience, therefore I only own around a hundred or so. Had I been around for the big release at the exact time I would probably have a few hundred.
Mike Law: Have you noticed an increase of type in traffic to any of your .TV domains now that there is more PR about TV and Internet convergence?
Michael Berkens: Since we have a portfolio of nearly 75,000 domains, not to brag but just as a matter of organization, I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing all of the traffic stats within our portfolio. I do look at the top traffic getters and earners weekly and our .TV’s are not yet on my radar. I haven’t done a study to compare traffic our .TV names used to get and what they get now. There hasn’t been anything that has caught my eye yet.
Mike Law: Have you seen an increase in offers since the Internet and television convergence movement has been gaining traction?
Michael Berkens: I have definitely received many inquiries but since I haven’t really owned any .TV names before March, I probably am not the best person to judge that. I certainly think it has become a viable option for many end users.
Mike Law: Do .TV domains present a more favorable investment from a risk standpoint than generic .coms which are now all pretty much set at the end user price level?
Michael Berkens: No, not really. Of the 75,000 domains we own 97 % are .coms. We have some .net, .org, .tv and .me but I wouldn’t say it has the enormous upside potential as a .com speaking very broadly. Having said that I do think there are some really good opportunities in the .TV space. I think that it (.tv) has to be somewhat video or television oriented maybe either related to programming or something that may be sold or watched on tv. .The .TV extension has a much smaller universe of possibilities.
Mike Law: How did you acquire most of your .TV domains? Was it mostly during the premium gold rush or have you been buying on the aftermarket?
Michael Berkens: We acquired some of them during the 3-5 day grace period when there were some names that got registered but released again when registrants realized that there were still some premium prices. We also bought a few through the first Sedo.tv auction and we have acquired some privately as well as picking up names that have dropped because past registrants did not pay the renewal fees on them. We are continuing to look at picking up names in this space.
Mike Law: Do you feel like there will be an added effect from all the publicity about Google TV, Apple TV even Oprah’s OWN TV Network on the value of .TV domains?
Michael Berkens: There certainly should be. The more often that any product related to TV is seen and the more exposure it gets, I would imagine you would get more saturation in the market. I don’t think it’s a quick process, I know it’s not a new extension but I think a lot of domainers including myself look at it as more of a new extension that was reborn in March when the pricing changed. Domainers need to be patient, the guys you read about today the like Frank (Schilling), Kevin Ham, Rick Schwartz – they didn’t get names in 1995 and sell them in 1996. There were people that did that but those are not the people in the business now that you hear about. These people were patient and waited 5-10 years before they started selling names and making their money. There’s certainly a quick buck to be made in domaining and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s plenty of people that buy a name for $500 and sell it for $5,000, again there’s nothing wrong with that at all, you can do that all day and make a nice living but you know you’re not going to buy a .tv, .co or .me and in four to six months or even a year into it turn around and flip the domain you bought for a thousand for a million dollars, that’s just not going to happen. It takes a little more maturity of the industry. I think .TV will over time appreciate in value but again if your flipping that’s fine and there’s money to be made but if you want more lucrative of a payoff you’re going to have to be patient and wait for the maturation and the learning process to take place.
Mike Law: Do you expect these bigger corporations, like Google to start using the .TV domain instead of maybe just forwarding to .com or not even acquiring names in the .TV space?
Michael Berkens: Players like Google are heavily invested in the visual space so yes, but there are a lot of companies that aren’t in that kind of space that I wouldn’t expect see using it like a Johnson & Johnson, I wouldn’t expect to have a TV channel along with many other major corporations. On the other hand, there are huge corporations out there that should be using it but aren’t so you can make the same argument. An example is NFL.tv, as you know Major League Baseball owns MLB.tv they use it and market it. Then you have the NFL (National Football League) that is a multi billion dollar enterprise who didn’t even want to spend $3,000 to acquire NFL.tv. The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) I don’t know where that name sits right now (bbc.tv) but it was available for forever and a day and they didn’t seem to anxious to grab it. So for every company that does it there are other companies that should do it but haven’t so I think it’s a kind of a wash in that regard.
Mike Law: In your view is there something that needs to change in the existing model of .TV for it to become more attractive to end users?
Michael Berkens: I think it just needs to get some saturation maturity and become known a little bit more, it’s still fairly unknown in the community outside of domainers. I think if we took a poll of an average guy on the street most will not have heard of it and don’t understand it, so it takes time for that to develop.
Mike Law: After the price restructuring in March the extension was kind of reborn in your eyes. Do you still see .TV as a ccTLD as it technically is or do you feel it should be categorized as a gTLD?
Michael Berkens: First and foremost it is still a ccTLD, people need to understand that and understand what they are investing in. Knowing it’s a ccTLD there are positives and negatives about it. From an investment standpoint it’s important to understand that since it is a ccTLD it’s not regulated by ICANN. Things that we know are that the contract between Verisign and Tuvalu expires in 2016, we also know that the Prime Minister of their country has made statements to the effect that they are unhappy with their current deal, which could be anything from just posturing like athletes do to basically saying that they are not going to renew the deal as it fits. Maybe they want a bigger share or want to change the deal all together. Whatever that ultimate decision is, it will affect domain investors and we have no control over it and neither does ICANN or the U.S. government. They certainly could go back to a premium price model if they wanted to, there would be nothing stopping them from doing that so I do think it’s a good idea to renew .TV’s as far in advance as possible. Understanding that things could change when that contract gets renegotiated or changes hands completely is something that people need to be aware of.
Mike Law: Is there anything else you would like to convey about .TV domains to .TV investors/speculators reading this blog entry that we have not yet covered?
Michael Berkens: I don’t think so, we’ve covered most of what I have to say about the extension. I am an investor, I don’t invest in a lot of ccTLD’s and this is one of the ones I do invest in, so I do see upside and good potential in it. There are of course, some risks in it too and it does have that limited universe of options.
Mike Law: Thank you so much Michael for taking the time to have this interview with me and talk about .TV. I really appreciate it and look forward to talking with you again soon.
Michael Berkens: You’re welcome Mike.