“We were producing newspaper and television advertising for them, with a pretty good track record”, Baillargeon remembered. “Then one day the CEO approached us to see if we could figure out a way to get more people to notice their stock, which was trading on the Bulletin Board.”
The agency adopted a retail advertising approach to company awareness and the client’s stock responded accordingly. “Overnight, my advertising agency had a new division,” laughs Baillargeon today.
Upon further research, Don realized that small companies had a very difficult time getting themselves noticed. “This was during the time when CNBC was the “It” channel, almost everyone had jumped into the markets and Alan Greenspan’s “Irrational Exuberance” term was coined,” he said. ” But there was little chance that a small, emerging company was going to be interviewed in the national media. Something had to be created.”
Don had been the Producer and Writer/Director of many long form television infomercials and the idea of creating a financial talk TV program was quite intriguing. Making use of his many contacts in the national media, he was able to solidify an initial distribution of slightly more than 1.5 million TV households and MoneyTV was born.
The show premiered in the Fall of 1996. “It was an enormous challenge,” said Don, “as any time you break ground with a new idea, no one wants to be the first client or guinea pig.” The challenge was further compounded by a decision Baillargeon had made from day one; to not accept securities or stock as payment for services and not to invest in companies appearing on the show. “Companies in those days were issuing stock like it was Monopoly money”, recalled Don. “But I knew MoneyTV would never have a credibility factor with our audience if we owned stock in companies we were interviewing on television. If it even appeared that we had any incentive for financial gain as a result of what occurred on MoneyTV, we would not be able to do our job of simply providing information.”
Many, many companies were turned away because they wanted to issue stock as payment for services. “I firmly believe that we would not be here today, 15 years and more than 700 original episodes later, had we not conceived and stuck to that original philosophy. I am very proud of that”, says Don.
Today, MoneyTV is seen in more than 180 million TV homes in over 75 countries. The program is available on broadcast, cable and satellite TV in the USA, Western Europe, North Africa, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Asia, Thailand and down under in New Zealand and Australia.
MoneyTV is also available on hand-held video devices like mobile phones, video ipods, etc… on various mobile networks and from the MoneyTV.net web site. If you are on a business trip or vacation, chances are you will find MoneyTV available on the Video On-Demand Channel in your hotel room.
MoneyTV is also quite a presence Online at moneytv.net. “We’re kind of a footnote in history”, says Baillargeon, “as we were one of the first, if not the very first, business television program to broadcast over the Internet. Back in 1996, the technology available rendered the screen about the size of a large postage stamp, but today you can watch the program on your computer in broadcast quality, full screen mode.” Interviews today are now also posted at various social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, CNN’s iReport and others.
MoneyTV produces a new show each and every week from studios in Studio City, California. When the program first debuted in 1996, guest company CEOs were required to travel to Los Angeles to appear on the program. Today, more than 90% of MoneyTV’s guests appear “via satellite” from a network of over 1200 TV studios around the world. “We have originated interviews from just about every major and medium-sized city in North America”, says Baillargeon, “as well as London, Paris, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Melbourne, even Bangkok.”
Baillargeon is the Founder and President of the company, Executive Producer and also anchors the television program. In addition to the CEOs and company representatives who appear on the show, several well known celebrities have also taken their turn as guests on MoneyTV, such as Michael Reagan, Dee Wallace Stone (“E.T.”), Tony Shaloub (“Monk”) and members of the 90s band Boys to Men, to name but a few.
So, after 15 years, does producing and hosting the show become tiresome?
”Not in the least”, said Don. “Each episode is a new adventure and I am constantly exploring ways to improve the product. We have featured correspondent reports from the American Stock Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange and we are talking with people at the NYSE right now.”
“We also debuted a radio show 5 years ago, MoneyRap Radio, airing on several radio stations across the country as well as online. I was excited about that because I cut my media industry teeth in the radio business, working my way through college in the late 70s. My career had come full circle!”
Baillargeon is also the Executive Producer and Host of a medical program called Health This Week, which debuted in Spring 2009, discussing new treatments, scientific breakthroughs and preventative lifestyle choices related to health. In 2010, Don launched the Global Financial News Minute, a daily 90-second vignette, airing in nearly 110 million TV homes, which educates investors about 21st Century stock valuation metrics.
On tap soon will be the Broadcast News Network, a daily news broadcast made available to independent TV stations. “We already have 80% clearance in US markets lined up for that”, Don noted.
He resides in Southern California with his wife Tracy and their daughter Gabrielle.