CNN is betting that YouTube star Casey Neistat, who has 5.8 million followers, can help the company package news in a way that appeals to younger audiences.
On Monday, CNN announced it had bought Neistat’s social-sharing app, Beme, for an undisclosed amount, and that all of Beme’s employees would join CNN. (The Wall Street Journal says the deal was for around $25 million).
CNN will shut down Beme, and Neistat will get to work building a new startup inside CNN.
Neistat’s new startup will try to tackle news, particularly through mobile video, but won’t be a traditional news network.
“A huge part of my particular audience sees news and media as largely broken,” Neistat told The New York Times. “My dad sees it as the word of God, but I think the young people definitely do not.”
“The new company will be devoted to filling the world with excellent, timely and topical video and empowering content creators to use technology to find their voice,” CNN said in a statement. “It won’t be what most people think of as ‘news,’ but it will be relevant to the daily conversations that dominate our lives.”
It’s unclear exactly what form that will take, but Neistat is a superstar in the the vlog format, and has a knack for creating videos with a sense of authenticity. The app Beme, which will be shuttered, is focused on unedited, user-generated short videos.
The new venture will launch by summer 2017, and CNN says it’s hiring “dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers, and content creators of every mold.”
While Neistat’s new startup will exist inside CNN, he will be given “full creative control” to build something different, according to The Times.
“Casey has tapped into nearly six million really powerful viewers, most of which do not tune in to CNN,” Andrew Morse, CNN’s digital boss, told The Times. “To build this audience authentically, we believe we need to build something new.”
CNN will not get ownership of Neistat’s personal YouTube channel.
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