Telekom Electronic Beats

Interview: Network Awesome’s Jason Forrest

Network Awesome is an internet-based TV channel, an effort to filter Youtube for original, strange and rare content, and perhaps the biggest collection of Nuke porn in the world. If you like to zone out to Japanese art-house cinema, indulge your Mario Bava obsession, or just want to check out their daily programming, Network Awesome is just the right place for you.

While TV in general is going through a transitory phase right now, quality content on one side and the lowest possible entertainment on the other end (turn on your TV right now to pretty much any channel for that) there seems to be a demand for guidance. Taking the possibilities of the internet and merging that with a lot of curating power, Network Awesome joins the ranks of fellow curated online entertainment stations like Everything Is Terrible, though the parallels to television become even closer—even to include Youtube-based ‘commercials’ during some programming. This transformation also takes place in the way we use the internet right now: we need filters, something to hold on to, personal aggregation. You can see that on the new design of our very own website, that has turned from a loose stream of content into a daily newspaper, to stand against a vault of chaotic blogs who just try to get out any information as fast as possible and build a selection of quality articles instead. The future is in people (the far future is in cyborgs, but that’s a whole other story).

Since the beginning of 2011, Jason Forrest has been the primary head of Network Awesome. Every day, he collects and dissects a vast amount of different videos into a daily selection of programming. The name Jason Forrest might rings a bell – prior to his adventures as a TV-Boss he was active as DJ Donna Summer and a central figure in the breakcore scene as the head of Cock Rock Disco (home to EB favorite Nero’s Day at Disneyland). You can download all his stuff for free on his soundcloud pages.


How did you start Network Awesome? 
Determination. I started Network Awesome because I felt a sort of void open up in my media consumption.Sure, there’s a vast amount of info online, but it’s becoming more difficult to determine what’s good from what’s bad. There’s also a need to find video that’s both interesting and entertaining, and it’s this sort of balance that we try to find with every single show and every day.

Do people need curating? Are they lost if they have no channels?
In many ways Network Awesome is actually a regression back to what many TV Channels lost. It’s a return to a more clear format, and a more dedicated identity. Now, with satellite TV, you just jump from channel to channel watching five minutes here and there, but with Network Awesome we want to inspire you to trust us enough to just turn it on and sit down in front of it.

I’m very interested in the process of curating. When you take websites like reddit for instance, who are community-driven and also have a channel structure, you start to realize that they often dumb things down; it happens very easily and everything turns into some kind of folklore.
Yeah, internet groups seem to thrive on controversy and sensationalism, so content that’s not as glamorous often gets omitted.

What is the Network Awesome Identity, and is it hard to keep that while getting more content and popularity?
We pride ourselves on being a sort of library for interesting people and ideas, and often this lands at the intersection between high culture and trash. There are honestly just so many amazing film, documentary and video collections out there that we haven’t covered. I think it would extremely easy to keep going forever. We have like 5% reruns at the moment, and our number one complaint we hear is that we ‘play too much good stuff’… which is nice to hear actually.

How many people work on Network Awesome?
176 international volunteers. We have people mostly in Europe, the US, and the UK. One of our head video curators is in Buenos Aires.

Is Network Awesome your full time job? 

Do you have any legal problems with the kind of syndication you do?
Nope! We’re not hosting or uploading anything. We just collect publicly available content and organize the information into one place.  We’ve checked with Youtube and they say we’re legal, and if a video is taken off of Youtube it’s also removed from our site too.

So you are really close with Youtube?
Nooo, we’re a tiny little fly that had a meeting or two with Youtube. Not close at all—yet!

Is there a business model in the making behind that? I understand that you can make money off Youtube by getting a lot of views on a video you upload. Or do you have the general problem of the curator here, that you kind of stand between all that?
In our meetings with Youtube, they have told us repeatedly that we’re 100% legal and that they want us to make money. We’re developing new tools for advertisers that can be a bit more clever than just some thirty second ad. Network Awesome is a profit driven site just like most other TV channels, but we think we’re clever enough to work with advertisers and sponsors as well as provide the best possible media. We don’t see them as mutually exclusive.

Is TV ‘coming back’?
Well, I think broadcast TV is really on the way out. Seems like the lowest common denominator approach leaves everyone with the least interesting content. I think that the ‘on-demand’ needs of the internet have really changed people’s viewing habits enough to ensure that the future of TV is not connected to a static box. But we also sometimes just need to relax and turn something on. That’s where “TV” is as strong as ever. The need for quality entertainment is always in vogue.

I feel like I completely lost that ‘turn something on’ feeling. I mean, even when totally hung over, tired or whatever I always already have some shows lined up that I’ve wanted to watch for a while… is that maybe a certain demographic? I’m 27, and I grew up with the internet, but I also remember a time before broadband connections and a time watching really stupid shit because there where only a certain amount of channels available on TV. Now I have total control over what I watch. What reactions do you get on that from people ? 
I guess it depends; in some ways Network Awesome is the ultimate hangover, sick-day, and stoner channel. While we know we have that demographic, we also are fully into the idea that Network Awesome is a place to discover media that you simple had no idea existed.  So we hope that different users can enjoy the site in their own way.

You’re also building up a lot of stuff around the site, articles, essays and the like. Do you see Network Awesome as a media company?
Absolutely. We’re also producing original content. We just taped our first original series a few weeks ago, a sort DIY music & variety show called The Network Awesome Show!

I was participating at my friend Rubbish Fairys showcase for that show, but as our readers don’t know what to expect yet, tell me more!
We’re editing it now, but basically we’re making a music & variety show that presents some of Berlin’s most interesting artists. In five days we filmed thirty-two acts from a very broad range of styles and approaches. Taking TV Party (the public access show, not the Black Flag EP – Ed.) as our inspiration, our goal is to make a compelling, well edited and professionally presented show with a gritty sense of authenticity that you don’t normally see on TV. We hope to finish editing in a week or two and then we’ll begin airing the series at the end of September.

What are your next plans for Network Awesome?
More original content, more video/film screenings around the world including a new monthly series in New York City, and a new line of T-shirts that launchs in a week or two.

What is your favorite piece of programming that you’ve shown?
No way I can pull out just one, haha! But a few would be Linea Quigleys Horror WorkoutThe Films Of Jan LenicaRabid DogsVibrationsYuri NorsteinLive Music Show Aquarius RecordsThe Stone TapeDivine Sea Warriors … honestly, the list goes on and on and on…

Published August 26, 2012.