CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded by YouTube Star Casey Neistat

Todd Spangler
Variety

CNN has acquired video-sharing app startup Beme, co-founded by popular YouTube creator Casey Neistat and Matt Hackett, and will invest in the team to launch a new standalone media brand.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. CNN said the new venture that it’s forming out of the acquisition — aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat’s reporting and commentary — will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme’s employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads.

New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral “Snowboarding With the NYPD” video last winter.

Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo’s Tumblr, Beme’s development team will “build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN’s portfolio of digital properties,” according to the Turner-owned cable news network.

Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture’s “editorial vision” as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company.

“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 announcing the deal. “It won’t be what most people think of as ‘news,’ but it will be relevant to the daily conversations that dominate our lives.”

The pact to buy Beme comes a year after CNN launched Great Big Story, a digital-only publication dedicated to discovering “untold stories” apart from the 24-hour news cycle that also is targeted at millennial audiences.

CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella. The foursome overseeing the new venture are Neistat, Hackett, Andrew Morse, executive VP of CNN U.S. editorial and GM of CNN Digital Worldwide, and Chris Berend, CNN’s senior VP of digital video.

Beme’s employees will remain in their Tribeca office, and will not be moving to CNN’s New York headquarters at the Time Warner Center. CNN said Neistat will still manage his personal YouTube channel but that it will be entirely separate from the new media venture. As for whether Neistat will appear on CNN’s TV lineup, the network said that “we’re exploring every possible way for Casey and our media venture to connect with new audiences. Stay tuned.”

Beme had raised $2 million from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Vayner/RSE, a partnership of Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia and RSE Ventures.

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