For the past decade we’ve witnessed the mad dash by traditional media companies to adapt to the new digital norms following a major disruption by digital first companies. It is something that has affected traditional media across the board from television to print and even broadcast radio. Digital nearly flipped the entire music industry on its back prompting labels to re-examine their business model and artist deals. On the media side companies like Vice, Buzzfeed, Vox Media, Huffpost and the other usual suspects have all kept companies like Time Inc, Conde Nast, Meredith, Rodale and other media companies rooted in print media on their toes. But don’t believe the hype because those digital first media companies are increasingly relying on the very platforms they disrupted to expand their audience reach and grow their business. Vice landed on HBO with its own show and even launched a cable network and Buzzfeed is diving into traditional media with TV deals. However in Vice’s defense, it did start out as a print magazine.
A year ago former Buzzfeed President Jon Steinberg launched Cheddar, a new digital news media company he dubbed “The Leading Post Cable Network” which streams financial,tech and media business news for millennials. So far the company has been enjoying a nice cross platform viewership said to be over 1 million daily. Cheddar’s content can be found on almost if not all the major digital distribution networks like Apple TV, Roku, Twitter, Amazon and others. But just a year in and Mr. Steinberg is slowly pushing his company onto traditional platforms in an effort to expand its audience. In the space of two months Cheddar announced two deals that will bring Cheddar content into the homes of millions of viewers via traditional media outlets.
The first deal announced back in April calls for Cheddar to broadcast on digital UHF stations. The company even gave away free antennas to generate awareness for the effort. Cheddar then followed that up on June 5 with another traditional media deal this time via cable where Cheddar will buddy up with Fusion to broadcast for 2 hours every weekday. Mr. Steinberg’s explanation for why his digital news company was moving so aggressively to broadcast across traditional channels was honest and simple. he said that he’s willing to break with his “digital orthodoxy” for an opportunity that could increase the reach and awareness of his network. Sure it hits the whole “post cable network” tagline but at least Mr. Steinberg is honest about why he was doing it. Back in May before the above mentioned deals, Cheddar took in another round of investment totaling $19 million which puts an $85 million valuation on the company. Mr. Steinberg is clearly putting the money to use with this broadcast expansion. He has to show investors that the company is growing and to do so, like he said he has to break with his “Digital Orthodoxy” to get the job done.
Digital first media companies can’t really grow without crossing into traditional media territories and taking in big traditional media money and traditional media companies need to stay current so they inject millions into these digital first companies or buy them outright. Vice Media has major investments from some of the biggest traditional media companies on the planet like Fox and Disney. NBC-Universal injected a total of $400 million into Buzzfeed and $200 million into Vox media. Hearst and Verizon scooped up all of Complex Networks and companies like Time Inc and Conde Nast are also scooping up digital brands. Many expect either Vice Media and/or Buzzfeed to be purchased outright by one of their big investors sometime this year or early next year. We are slowly seeing the line between new and traditional media companies erased which means soon it will all just be “Media” again.
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