Is Jason Calacanis The Best Talk Show Host on TV Today? -Media Training

by TJ Walker
At first blush, this is an absurd question. Calacanis and his show “This Week in Startups” aren’t even on “real” TV—it’s only seen on the internet. Second, Calacanis fidgets nervously with his pen in a distracting manner that is usually displayed by pimply-faced college freshmen appearing on camera for the first time.

But, I have to admit that I have become an addict to Calacanis and his program for many reasons and now believe he is the future of TV (full and relevant disclosure: Calacanis is not a friend of mine and I don’t think I’ve ever met him).

Consider the following:

  1. Passion. Calacanis bridges a true passion to his subject. This guy eats and breaths (and according to legend, rarely sleeps) internet startups. His excitement makes the show more exciting.
  2. In Depth Knowledge. Calacanis really knows his stuff. Everyone he interviews seems to be his peer, not someone he has to look up to. Contrast this with the typical CNBC host who seems intimidated and inferior when interviewing a billionaire hedge fund manager. (Calacanis doesn’t bow, scrape or calls guests “sir.”) Calacanis seems to know every major player in the industry and has a working knowledge of every type of company that is more than 2 months old. But unlike, say, Jim Cramer, Calacanis doesn’t make it sound easy to get rich quick if you follow his recommendations.
  3. Spontaneity. If a caller or guest mentions a new business or website, Calacanis will type it in to his computer himself on-air and analyze it instantly. He’s not dependent on a huge production staff or a director setting things up for him or whispering in his ear.
  4. Brutal Honesty. Calacanis isn’t afraid to rip apart powerful, important people and companies, but he always seems to have well-justified reasons that have nothing to do with pettiness or rigid ideological positions. He can be prickly and unpredictable, but never just cranky.
  5. Fun! Calacanis constantly gives off the vibe that he is having the time of his life! This makes the show more enjoyable.
  6. Personality. Calacanis reveals tidbits about his family, vacations, movies he likes and cars, but he never crosses the line of TMI. He also doesn’t seem to be focused primarily on himself, the way some hosts do. He seems to have a healthy ego, but never comes across as egomaniacal (Note: he may be a monster to work for—I have no idea. I am simply judging his on-camera performance).
  7. He Reads His Ads. Why is this a plus? Isn’t this what old time journalists consider un-dignified and unethical? With Calacanis, he claims to only promote advertisers he personally uses and that he thinks would be helpful to his clients. His not afraid to personalize the ads by even doing chimp noises to promote his advertiser Mail Chimp. Furthermore, his ads aren’t disrupting the viewer or the show because they are relevant to the show and his viewers. I would argue that Calacanis is MORE ethical than a CNBC host who is content to take a pay check while cutting to a commercial from BP or the Doritos Company, ostensibly with his hands clean.
  8. Coherent World View. Calacanis brings a strong world view, perspective, history and philosophy to most of the issues that surface on his program. Unlike a cartoonish world view that Rush Limbaugh has (all Democrats and Liberals are evil and Obama is still a wimp even when he kills Bin Laden), Calacanis appears reasonable and non-knee jerk, even when you disagree with him.
  9. Focus on Guests. Calacanis certainly uses time during the show to give his opinions, but when his guests appear, he actually lets the guests talk and he appears to be listening to them. Unlike, say Chris Matthews or Bill O’Reilly, Calacanis does not interrupt his guests incessantly or browbeat them if they don’t agree with him. He actually lets the guest have the spotlight.

10.  Supportive. Calacanis clearly seems himself as part of a larger community of entrepreneurs, tech and startup enthusiasts. So when he lets young entrepreneurs on his show to promote their new ventures, he offers constructive criticism, but never with nastiness or arrogance.

11.  Strong Fan Base. Calacanis has groups of fans that get together and watch his show in places around the world like Paris. Last time I checked, no one created a club to watch Piers Morgan.


  1. Calacanis’ show This Week in Start Ups will have a larger audience than most shows on CNBC, Fox Business News or Bloomberg TV within the next 2 years. Currently, Calacanis claims each episode of his show has 100,000 views. Fox Business News and Bloomberg don’t have much in terms of ratings, but I’m sure some of their shows have fewer than 10,000 viewers.
  2. As more TVs become equipped to connect to Internet video, the current advantage that these cable networks have over Calacanis will evaporate.
  3. In the future, hosts will have to be members of and a leader of a specific community.
  4. Shows won’t be able to sell interruption based TV ads; shows will need hosts who have an intimate relationship with the advertisers and the audience/community.
  5. Host will have to have a demonstrable passion and a commitment to a community, i.e. Mortgage Broker TV (if there is such a thing) is not going to be successful hiring a good-looking out of work actor to host its programs. Instead, the show will be successful if it is created by a grizzled 20 year veteran of the Mortgage Broker scene who already blogs, already attends all the mortgage broker conferences and already knows all of the players in the industry.

Final Prediction: Jason Calacanis IS the future of TV hosting and TV itself. If you don’t learn from what he is doing, you will not be a successful host or a profitable TV network in the news/talk arena after 2014.

TJ Walker is the founder of The Pitching Well, a community for c-level executives pitching to professional investors.

For more information on media and presentation training please visit and continue reading for news and analysis to help you communicate more effectively.

For more information on media and presentation training please visit and continue reading for news and analysis to help you communicate more effectively.

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