Walk into CreativeLive's airy San Francisco studios and you could be forgiven for thinking you're in just another snazzy software startup office. That is, until you open one of the closed doors and notice the cameras, producers, presenters, and live studio audience.
Co-founded by photographer Chase Jarvis in 2010, CreativeLive offers free, live online workshops taught by experts. You won't learn how to code in CreativeLive classes (online education startups like Udacity and EdX can help with that), but you could learn about photography, design, the music business, e-mail marketing, and other hands-on topics. Think of it more as a replacement for enrichment classes at a community college than high-level classes at a university.
Since its launch, CreativeLive has grown the number of shows it broadcasts from its San Francisco and Seattle studios; this week, the studios are hosting eight live shows. CEO Mika Salmi, the former president of Viacom Digital, says that the company now has more than 500 classes in its library. Now, CreativeLive is taking the next logical step: launching five always-on channels of content—a mix of live and rebroadcasted shows, just like you might find on any regular TV network.
The big difference is that CreativeLive's five channels (Art & Design, Business & Money, Maker & Craft, Music & Audio, Photo & Video) will be commercial-free, except for some spots promoting future CreativeLive content. The company charges people who want to own the shows instead of just watching them on the channels.
"Before, if you had a class that didn't appeal to what you're trying to learn, you had to wait until the next time something in your interest area or time zone came on," says Salmi. "We have enough that we could broadcast around the clock for months without anything repeating. We're going to get smarter about what time a class starts and also think about programming around a certain time of year or holiday." That means classes about wedding planning might get more re-runs in the spring, for example.
Out of its 2 million-plus viewers, only half of CreativeLive students come from the U.S. The rest are international—a number that could increase with 24/7 programming. "We're now providing much broader access and content selection, so we'll see some metrics that demand us to do something different for different geographies," explains Salmi. That could mean doing shows in Spanish when the Hispanic market is watching, or putting certain instructors that are popular in, say, China, on air at a time when the Chinese audience is awake.
CreativeLive isn't the only company with this idea; there are long-time efforts like Lynda.com and newer sites like Skillshare that all promise to help people learn skills that aren't always taught in traditional classrooms. Armed with $21.5 million in fresh investments and a large group of students, CreativeLive, at least, isn't disappearing anytime soon.