CNN, the cable TV network owned by Time Warner (TWX) , has placed a bet on the millennial audience with the acquisition of popular YouTube personality Casey Neistat's video-sharing startup Beme.
"Together we are launching a new media company dedicated to timely and topical video content powered by bleeding edge mobile technology," said Andrew Morse, General Manager of CNN Digital Worldwide, in an internal note circulated Monday and obtained by TheStreet. Morse will also act as an executive officer for a new company that will be formed within CNN with Beme employees, among others.
Neistat and fellow Beme co-founder Matt Hackett, as well as the team behind Beme, which includes about 11 employees, have joined CNN Worldwide as part of the acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed.
Beme employees will use the Beme's video technology to launch a stand-alone media company much like Great Big Story, which is a separate, stand-alone business within CNN focused on telling stories with no apparent tie to the 24-hour news cycle.
The new company, still without a name, won't be producing what most people think of as ''news,'' but will be relevant to the daily conversations, CNN told TheStreet. CNN will also hire "dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators of every mold" for the new company, it said.
The new company will launch as a startup by the summer of 2017.
Neistat has a following of nearly six million subscribers on Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Report YouTube video platform. Following the deal, Neistat is free to maintain his own YouTube channel and make all the editorial calls about his personal channels. Although the acquisition isn't a TV talent deal, CNN will explore every possible way to tap into the Youtube sensation's ability to connect with new audiences.
The deal comes about as traditional TV cable news networks start to seek creative channels to attract new audiences. CNN's deal with Beme comes after Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report 's NBCUniversal made a $200 billion investment in Buzzfeed last week, which was NBCUniversal's second round of investments in Buzzfeed after its TV and film division made $200 million investments in BuzzFeed and Vox Media respectively last year.
Companies founded by successful Youtube personalities who have a track record of engaging millennial audiences and consumers are increasingly being pursued by big name brand corporations. For example, digital media channel Maker Studios, home to many Youtube talents, was acquired by Disney (DIS) - Get Report in March 2014 for $500 million.
The Beme app, which allows users to shoot four-second bursts videos that could be uploaded onto the social sphere without tweaking or editing, sells on the idea of "authenticity." The app took off initially but gradually lost steam as competition from similar platforms like Snap Inc.'s Snapchat and Facebook (FB) - Get Report 's Instagram intensified.
The Beme app will shut down on Jan. 31 according to a blog post from Hackett, having amassed around 1.2 million downloads during its more-than-a-year-long operation.