Mark Cuban, the co-founder of Dallas-based firm broadcast.com and owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, was among the most high-profile, outspoken, and wealthiest dot.com moguls of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Broadcast.com built its fortune by taking established media outlets online and streaming their signals over the Internet on the broadcast.com Web site in exchange for promotion on the firm's television or radio stations. Cuban positioned his company as adding value to traditional media outlets by offering them an online presence. Despite its success and its leadership in the online streaming media market, broadcast.com was one of the many dot-com sensations that failed to turn a profit despite its sizeable splash.
Although broadcast.com remained in the red, Cuban struck it rich when his former partner Yahoo! Inc. purchased the company in 1999 for $5.7 billion. However, although streaming media was the field in which broadcast.com earned its reputation, it wasn't the thrust of the company's revenue. About 70 percent of the firm's revenue came from its online conferences and assorted business services.
A Pittsburgh native born in 1958, Cuban's background in computers was modest, to say the least. He took only one computer course at Indiana University, where he majored in business, and failed because of poor typing skills, according to a profile in Broadcasting & Cable . Nonetheless, after graduation in 1981 he found a job with Mellon Bank as a computer systems integrator in Pittsburgh. After moving to Dallas, Cuban was fired from a job as a computer software salesman despite strong sales skills, because, according to Cuban, he wasn't interested in sweeping floors. However, Cuban felt his experience was strong enough to start his own firm, a computer networking outfit called MicroSolutions, which proved a modest success; he sold the firm to CompuServe for $3 million after seven years.
Streaming media and Cuban's love of basketball first merged in 1995 when he and his friend Tony Wagner affixed a phone line to a personal computer in order to watch the Indiana Hoosiers. They shopped their idea around on the message boards at America Online and were impressed by the level of influence. Inspired, they decided to launch a new firm called AudioNet to connect users to their favorite hometown sports teams over the Internet.
In 1998, they renamed the firm broadcast.com and took it public. The clients rolled in; at the time of the sale to Yahoo!, broadcast.com reached more than 60 million U.S. Internet users with its streaming media packages. While Wagner left the new partnership within a year after Yahoo!'s takeover, Cuban maintained two percent of Yahoo!'s shares. Cuban's main pursuit, however, was to live up the life he'd earned as a hotshot dot-com entrepreneur. He purchased the Dallas Mavericks for $280 million and made himself one of the NBA's most visible and out-spoken owners.
A prolific speaker, Cuban spent a great deal of time traveling the country extolling the glories and the necessities of entering the Internet business, and insisting that the online medium was destined to consume commerce as we know it. Cuban was among the strongest proponents of utilizing streaming media, urging broadcasters to junk their old business models that emphasized their channels or frequencies as identity markers, and instead embrace a model that highlighted "parallel programming" on the TV or radio and the Web at the same time. With technology and bandwidth becoming cheaper, competition in broadcasting was bound to explode, Cuban insisted, and traditional broadcasters could use their tremendous access to content to sell themselves in the emerging medium.
Thoroughly steeped in the high-speed competitive atmosphere of e-commerce, in 1999 Cuban told Broadcasting & Cable that "Business is like a game and the stock price and the money is the scorecard. The whole idea is to win." By any measure, Cuban had his share of victory. In 1999, Forbes ranked Cuban seventh on its list of the richest people in America involved in the Internet, with a net worth of $1.2 billion.
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Newcomb, Peter, and Erika Brown. "The Forbes 400: Web Masters." Forbes. October 11, 1999.
Rathburn, Elizabeth A. "Crusader for Convergence." Broadcasting & Cable. October 18, 1999.
——. "Cuban: Embrace the Web." Broadcasting & Cable. October 4, 1999.
SEE ALSO: Streaming Media; Yahoo!