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Levar Burton

LeVar Burton on How Star Trek Influenced Technology

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When the iPad debuted in 2010, Star Trek The Next Generation‘s LeVar Burton wasn’t as surprised by the device as others. After all, characters on his show and the original series were beaming each other up, video chatting and using touch devices way before Apple.

“I believe there was some kid who watched those original episodes of Star Trek… That kid grew up, became an engineer, a designer of product, and is responsible for a piece of technology in the flip cell phone that’s more prevalent now than toasters,” Burton said in our final Media Beat interview. ”You look at Bluetooth ear devices, Star Trek. You look at Flip cell phones, Star Trek. Devices, seeing devices for the blind inspired by Geordi‘s visor? Science fiction literature and pop culture really is a main conduit for how we invent our future reality.”

Yeah, Google Glass does look a little like this.

Part 1: LeVar Burton on Bringing the ‘Reading Rainbow’ App to Silicon Valley [Video]
Part 2: Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton on How to Reach the Digital Generation

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Why LeVar Burton’s ‘Reading Rainbow’ App Is Not Free

After Reading Rainbow was cancelled in 2009, the show’s host, LeVar Burton knew he had to do something to save the brand. So, he and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, bought the rights to the name, launched a new company, RRKidz, and created the Reading Rainbow app featuring over 150 books, video field trips and classic clips from the TV show.

And Burton says that, at $9.99 for a month or $29.99 for six months, their app is a real steal.

“Now, when you look at that, that breaks down to $5 a month. You can spend more than $5 on a single children’s app. We were looking for a solution for families that made economic sense. It’s the wild west, you know? We are all making it up as we go along,” he said in our Media Beat interview. “We have value, a product that is of value for families, that is economic and full of the kind of enriching content that the brand, Reading Rainbow, has always been known for.”

Part 1: LeVar Burton: ‘Cutting down trees to make books is not sustainable’
Part 3: Wednesday, we discuss Burton’s role in Roots and how he achieved longevity in Hollywood.

LeVar Burton on Bringing the ‘Reading Rainbow’ App to Silicon Valley [Video]

mediabistroTV banner

When Reading Rainbow was cancelled in 2009, host LeVar Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, decided they had to do something to save the brand. So, they bought the rights to the name, launched a new company, RRKidz, and created the Reading Rainbow app to make literacy fun for a whole new generation.

And the experience was far from easy, says Burton.

“We really had to learn the business of starting a technology business and figure our way through that — raising money, hiring a team, talking to technologists,” he said in our Media Beat interview. “We’re showbiz guys — my business partner is a film producer and studio executive. And even though we’ve been doing this a long time — we have a combined 65 years of experience in this business — it’s in a different business. We had to put on big boy pants and go to Silicon Valley and talk to those cats and learn their game.”

Part 1: Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton on How to Reach the Digital Generation
Part 3: Wednesday, we discuss Burton’s role in Roots and how he achieved longevity in Hollywood.

Reading Rainbow‘s LeVar Burton on How to Reach the Digital Generation

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One need only head to YouTube for proof of the impact Reading Rainbow had on countless children. The iconic 80s TV show has inspired homages, singalongs and tributes galore. But trying to reach anyone under 30 through TV today? Bad idea, says LeVar Burton.

“Television was the medium and the technology of its time in the 80s and 90s, but you know better than I do that this is the digital-native generation,” the former Reading Rainbow host explained in Mediabistro’s latest Media Beat interview. “And they consume most of their screen time on mobile devices. That’s where we wanna be. If you want to be where they are, you’ve gotta be on a mobile device.”

Watch the video for the full interview to find out how Burton got his Reading Rainbow gig and why he thinks printed books will soon be obsolete.

Part 2: LeVar Burton on Bringing the ‘Reading Rainbow’ App to Silicon Valley [Video]
Part 3: Wednesday, we discuss Burton’s role in Roots and how he achieved longevity in Hollywood.

LeVar Burton: ‘Cutting down trees to make books is not sustainable’

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Who didn’t love Reading Rainbow as a kid?  The iconic 80s show used songs, celebrities and video to actually make literature fun. Well, times they do change. And the show’s onetime host, LeVar Burton, says that Reading Rainbow just wouldn’t work on TV today and, furthermore, the days of printed books are also numbered.

“I don’t know what the time frame is, but I do know that at some point, cutting down trees to make books is not sustainable. It’s just one of those things we’re gonna have to get over ourselves about, right? Like oil consumption, it’s just not sustainable,” he explained in our latest Media Beat interview. ”So, we’re looking at a future, whenever it comes, that we’re gonna consume most of the reading that we do on some kind of electronic device or another. We will still have printed books; they’ll never go away. I think our emotional attachment to them is too strong. What it will do, I believe, though is make the books that we own more valuable to us, more precious.”

(And watch the full interview for a freakin’ awesome homage to that beloved RR theme song.)

Part 2: Tuesday, Burton introduces us to the new Reading Rainbow app.
Part 3: Wednesday, we discuss Burton’s role in Roots and how he achieved longevity in Hollywood.