Yellow Jacket. Home to irrigated alfalfa fields, tractors rumbling down packed-dirt county roads, and a general aura of tranquility.
And a five-star rooftop restaurant?
If Jerry McMullen has his way, a top-of-the-line entertainment complex could be coming to the remote area north of Cortez.
But not immediately. For the elaborate plans to come to fruition, McMullen’s fledgling business, 4cast.tv, needs to take off.
McMullen is convinced the future of entertainment lies not with cable or satellite television, but on the Internet. The idea isn’t quite mainstream yet, but McMullen wants to get ahead of the curve.
We’re about three years before our time,” said the 57-year-old founder and CEO. “What’s happening now, if you watch the financials, cable and broadcast TV are going down. Their subscriber growth is dying. In the next three years, experts are saying 70 percent of content — news, entertainment, sports, whatever — will be viewed on wireless devices of some kind.”
McMullen believes Internet-based streaming is the wave of the future. He views it as a chance to bring local content to local viewers, and also advertise Southwest Colorado as a tourist destination overseas.
McMullen is a treasure trove of ideas, meandering at whim from one to the other.
He wants a local film crew, with premium-quality cameras and recording equipment, to capture breaking news stories around the San Juan Skyway loop.
“For a visual medium, there’s nothing here. Unless it’s something catastrophic, Albuquerque won’t cover it. Denver won’t cover it,” he said.
He wants to be an amplifier for homegrown singer/songwriters. He wants to be a forum for political debates and experts to talk about topics as diverse as oil drilling, ice climbing and suicide awareness.
He wants the Yellow Jacket studio to be a field trip destination for schoolchildren to learn about broadcasting. The more serious ones could do internships and develop their own content to air online. He’s also into renewable energy. The building already has solar panels, and McMullen plans to install wind turbines too.
“It could literally be a full-blown lesson how electricity goes from sun and wind to turning on the lights. We could take them to the transmission room where everything is converted,” he said.
While he might charge a nominal fee for a mobile app version of his site, McMullen intends for 4cast.tv to be a free service. Revenue would come from advertising.
McMullen believes tourism promotion too often uses dull, text-centric pamphlets, post-visit reviews and static images. He thinks there is fertile ground in showing prospective visitors the “true ambience” of a town and its attractions. Filming video footage of restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, scenic landscapes, and cultural events — and disseminating it with 4cast.tv — gives a more fluid, dynamic representation of a place like Cortez, he said. His grand plans hinge on this idea becoming transferable elsewhere.
4cast.tv is based out of an old AT&T station on County Road 16. The surroundings are plain — farms and fields as far as the eye can see in each direction. The structure itself is a Cold War relic designed, as most communication buildings were then, to withstand nuclear blasts. The walls are thick, monolithic slabs of concrete, with no seams. Only a few windows break up the exterior facade. McMullen, born and raised in Texas, bought it in 2002.
McMullen is enthusiastic about the entire 4cast.tv business model, but he grows most rhapsodic when describing the bold — some might say outlandish — blueprints for the site.
He wants to create a high-end resort, in the style of a village or compound. The plans include luxurious lodging for a dozen parties, a restaurant constructed 100 feet in the air, on top of the old AT&T signal tower, accessible only by elevator shaft, a helicopter landing pad (to transport dignitaries from the airport), a high-definition theater, live music stages and hot tubs. Textures like limestone and granite abound.
Crazy, or crazy like a fox? Time will tell.
“I’m one of those freaks who dreams big — a visionary,” McMullen said. “Or a nutcase.”
Those plans are still on the shelf. But construction on the existing AT&T itself is under way. Inside is a state-of-the-art recording studio, with top-line microphones, mixers and editing equipment. McMullen is having a cherry wood desk made to film debates and roundtables. He wants the develop a stockpile of green-screen backgrounds and graphics.
“It’ll make Face the Nation look bad,” he said.
McMullen’s professional background is in emergency communications. His company, InterConnect — which he’s now in the process of dissolving — helped the World Trade Center, NASA, hospitals, school districts and oil companies develop rapid-fire ways to get notifications out quickly to multiple mediums.
“We could send messages out to pagers, cellphones, fax machines and email boxes at the touch of a few buttons,” he said.
The idea of web-based broadcasting didn’t occur to him until last year, when he worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. On a trip to California to record radio spots, McMullen met actor Jon Lovitz, who owns a comedy club inside Universal Studios. The former Saturday Night Live star is investing heavily in “vodcasting” technology — podcasts, but with a visual element.
“The wheels started turning in my head,” McMullen said. “I decided I want to be at the forefront of this technology.”
People wanting to learn more about 4cast.tv can come to Parque de Vida on Memorial Day. McMullen is hosting a day-long event, featuring live music and a Coors beer garden.