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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Tech Visionary Helped Adapt Cell Phones to New Users

Due to the rapid rise in popularity of on-demand cell phone entertainment and news programs, it’s easy to forget that just three years ago the most impressive features that many cell phones had was the capability to play video blackjack. But Steve Fowler, the president and COO of Sherman Oaks-based GoTV Networks saw a bright future for the space. Overhauling GoTV’s operations (then known as VStar), Fowler instituted a new business plan and focus for the company, ultimately allowing the once-foundering company to reposition itself for success. Founded in 1997, GoTV was initially a research and design company that produced avatars and robotic figures. When the Internet boom kicked in, the company decided that it was going to become a full scale animation firm on the Web, creating technologically innovative animated characters that presented various kinds of information. But as the Internet bubble burst, the company’s fortunes became uncertain. It was in early 2002 when wireless industry veteran, Fowler, became the head of the company and initiated a series of actions that essentially made him its second founder. “The company was at a crossroads. It possessed some of the best created technology I’d been around, but it had no viable place to deliver it,” Fowler said. “I talked to various wireless carriers and we became the first to deliver multimedia technology on a cell phone when we delivered our first prototype to Sprint by the end of 2002.” But switching to the world of wireless was a risky endeavor. There was no guarantee that the technology would catch up to Fowler’s ambitious plans to deliver news, abridged television shows and sports programs to cellular phones. Additionally, the company had to ensure placement on the myriad cellular providers operating within the space. But Dale Knoop, the manager of multimedia operations for Sprint claims that Fowler and GoTV were one of the first and best companies to approach the telecommunications giant. “GoTV started at a time when no one was predicting that this type growth would occur with mobile phone. Since then, they’ve been nothing but successful to date, constantly bringing new compelling content,” Knoop said. “They were one of the first people to bring us something that offered multimedia content. Their product provided cell phone users with a great way to tell a story with words and pictures.” During Fowler’s first year in charge of the company, he scaled back operations to a staff of just 25 people, half of GoTV’s current size. Additionally, the company did not produce any revenues as they switched from the Internet to the cellular phone world. In this period, Fowler fostered the growth of GoTV’s content base. Some of the current programs include “Pure Phat,” a multimedia program tailored to hip-hop audiences; “Fast Forward on GoTV”, which allows users to watch abridged versions of programs such as “Desperate Housewives,” and “Lost;” and Sports Tracker, which provides sports fans with new and up-to-date information. The self-effacing Fowler is quick to point elsewhere for the reasons behind the company’s success. Certainly, the increasingly youthful skewing demographics of cell phone users have been beneficial to a company that provides colorful, visual products catering to younger generations. However, Fowler’s leadership and vision deserves some of the credit. But according to the soft-spoken Texan, much of the credit for GoTV’s success belongs to the team that he assembled. “I have a very participative style of management and hopefully I’ve been able to use the strengths, knowledge and skills of the very talented team here,” Fowler said. “Together, we’ve modeled a company that has great value. If you look at the way that we manage, we’ve listened, we’ve paid attention and we’ve worked hard at being creative and making sure that everyone has the ability to use their skills. That’s a lot of the reason and if that’s attributable to me, I’m proud of that.”

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