CNN just brought one of the biggest vloggers on YouTube into its family. The news outlet acquired the startup Beme, a stripped-down Snapchat-like video-sharing app created by Matt Hackett and YouTuber Casey Neistat. According to Variety, a new venture will come out of the acquisition. Beme is shutting down, and its 11 employees, including Neistat, will join CNN to start a new media brand focused on millennial viewers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal is valued at $25 million.
Hackett, who once was the vice president of engineering at Tumblr, will help build the brand’s core technology while also helping to build new mobile video features for CNN’s digital properties. Neistat, who has almost 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, will serve as the brand’s executive producer and shape its “editorial vision.”
It’s likely that CNN will want to incorporate some of Beme’s technology into this new brand or possibly some of its existing digital properties. Beme essentially forced the users to film what’s around them rather than turning the camera on themselves. The app let users share four-second video clips by covering the top portion of the front of an iPhone, near the earpiece and the front-facing camera. This is most easily done by holding the iPhone to your chest, with the rear camera facing outward. This almost makes the phone “a stand-in for one’s body,” as The New York Times once put it. Thanks in part to Neistat’s following on YouTube, Beme was well-received when it first launched last year. However, with the heavy competition from Snapchat, and now Instagram which has incorporated Snapchat-esque features, Beme ultimately couldn’t keep up.
This new venture will be different from a traditional news outlet. “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 told Variety. “It won’t be what most people think of as ‘news,’ but it will be relevant to the daily conversations that dominate our lives.”
Much like with Beme, Neistat seems to want to bring a new, authentic spin to news that many young people think is lacking in traditional media. “A huge part of my particular audience sees news and media as largely broken,” Neistat said in an interview with The New York Times. “My dad sees it as the word of God, but I think the young people definitely do not.”
Neistat recently ended his incredibly popular daily vlogs, which garnered him millions of subscribers and views on YouTube over the past year. He explains in a video that the vlogs became routine for him and didn’t challenge him creatively anymore, and he’s now looking to other projects to do that.
It’s certainly a risk for Neistat to end his vlogs since he’s been able to build his career and undoubtably make a lot of money via Google AdSense from them. However, he does have a devoted fanbase who will likely follow him to this new CNN project. On the flip side, CNN hopes to gain a lot of millennial viewers from Neistat’s following once the brand debuts.