In 2016, CNN spent $25 million on Beme, a video-sharing app created by Casey Neistat, a YouTube film-maker, and Mark Hackett. CNN hoped it could develop the app into an independently operated daily online news program aimed at a new generation of media consumers — Millennials. On Thursday, BuzzFeed News reported that the investment has failed as Beme is “effectively shutting down.”
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Neistat acknowledged his inability to come up with a feasible strategy for “Beme News.” He also explained that he slowly distanced himself from the company, instead focusing on producing videos for his personal YouTube channel.
“I couldn’t find answers,” he said. “I would sort of disappear, and I would hide, and I would make YouTube videos for my channel because at least I would be able to yield something. Neistat stated that he didn’t think he was giving CNN what he wanted to give them and that they weren’t getting value from him.
Beme News’s YouTube channel will continue existing within CNN, but it has only published a few dozen videos so far. BuzzFeed reported that CNN will “seek to find different positions across the company for nearly everyone on Beme’s 22-member team, but that some people would lose their jobs.” The report also states that CNN will continue developing the tech products that Beme team members have built, one of which is Wire, a live-news app that is yet to be released.
Beme launched in the summer of 2015 and its numbers blew almost immediately, partly because of Casey Neistat’s massive online following. However, growth has slowed down since then. The app is similar to Snapchat. Users record and upload video clips to their profiles but the camera can only be activated when you hold your phone to your chest. The idea behind this was that you should experience the moment you are capturing rather than viewing it on your smartphone screen.
The app caught the attention of CNN and led them to close a deal with the founders valued at over $20 million. The deal was led by CNN’s CEO Jeff Zucker (who originally found out about Neistat through his teenage son).
According to James McQuivey, a Forrester analyst, who spoke to AdAge, CNN had hopes for Neistat to build his own platform that was less reliant on social media platforms, like Facebook and Snapchat, and their ever-changing algorithms.
“Like most media companies, CNN.com on the mobile web or a CNN app won’t be the destination of choice for all but a small fraction of people. That may be why they thought they had a solution in partnering with Neistat to go off and bolster or create a separate brand for millennials,” he said.