Einstein TV

From YSTV History Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Einstein TV were a science TV channel on digital satellite which launched in 2001. They subsequently went bust in 2003.

YSTV became involved in a deal to produce programmes for Einstein, which ultimately failed.

The Beginnings

In late 2000, YSTV were approached by Keith Hide-Smith of Breaker 88 fame, who wanted to discuss a business proposition. He had recently joined this new start-up, Einstein TV, who wanted to create a TV channel that was described as "New Scientist meets MTV". The channel would consist of five minute VTs strung together by a series of continuity links, all of which were played out jukebox-style from some big video servers. All the VTs were dubbed and subtitled into multiple languages to allow them to create versions for different European countries. Einstein's HQ was in London, but all their playout was done from Berlin, where there was a strong subsidy for start-up media companies.

Keith's plan was to supply YSTV with some new DV equipment which we would then use to make programmes for Einstein about research at York. We would "pay for" the equipment in programmes, so after a certain number of programmes made we'd then own the equipment ourselves. Peter Bowles, Michael Prior-Jones and Keith went to a meeting with Ron Cooke, the then Vice-Chancellor, at which Ron gave his blessing to the plan.

New Equipment

The equipment supplied was a Panasonic NVGS100B 3CCD miniDV camcorder, a Panasonic NVDV2000 miniDV VTR and a Pentium III PC with a Matrox RT2000 edit board. The camcorder and VTR were delivered to YSTV early in 2001. The PC, which came from York-based Red Submarine Computers, took a lot longer to arrive, only showing up about three weeks before the end of the spring term. At the time the University's insurers required computers to be fitted with a security cuff - and despite our best efforts, this cuff wasn't supplied and fitted until the final week of the spring term.

During the Easter break, Jenny Gordon took the Einstein camera down to London for NaSTA 2001, which was held at Imperial College. Whilst there, we got an email from Einstein. They were sending a reporter to Nepal, and wanted to borrow back the camcorder for him to use. They promised that it would return at the start of the following term. Jenny and Michael took the camera round to Einstein's offices and dropped it off.


When the summer term began, several people were interested in making programmes for Einstein, although it was agreed that we wouldn't actually approach any academics until we had all the resources sorted out and understood what Einstein expected of us. For about five weeks we chased them about the return of the camera, and when it did actually return it was the middle of the exam season. Understandably, nothing was done.

The following autumn we contacted Einstein to ask for some guidance on the format of the programmes, and sent them a list of programme ideasUnverified or incomplete information. They took ages to reply, so we reckoned they'd lost interest.

The Deal's Off

At around Christmas time (i.e. a year after the original deal) we got a stroppy email from one of their managers, accusing us of being lazy good-for-nothings who did no work. We wrote back and set out the story and suggested that they hadn't made much of an effort to support us in the venture other than providing the equipment. They subsequently sent a courier to collect the gear, which we duly handed over. At this point it was clear to us from looking at their corporate website that they were in a financially bad position and were trying to corral their remaining assets.

Keith Hide-Smith left Einstein before the channel ceased broadcasting. Einstein PLC changed its name to Eicom and now owns and operates (amongst other things) The Performance Channel on Sky