CEO, Cheddar

Bonus Five

What shows are on your DVR? I use Sling and YouTube TV … DVRs are dead. I watch cable news and Netflix, Amazon Prime, Showtime and HBO.

What are you binge-watching? Succession

Favorite type of music? Alternative Rock. Steely Dan. Neil Diamond.

Best recent meal? A sandwich on a JetBlue flight from L.A. to NYC that landed at 1 a.m. last night. It exceeded my expectations.

Vacation destination on your bucket list? I like going to my apartment in Palm Beach, Florida.

While subscription video-on-demand platforms disrupted cable programming, networks focused on live content like news were largely safe.

Not so much anymore.

Zeroing in on the next-generation news consumer, digital programmer Cheddar has become a prominent prototype for what happens next to cable news. The platform is ubiquitous — carried by leading virtual multichannel video programming distributors, distributed through social media, and embedded into traditional platforms like Comcast’s X1.

As its audience grows, Cheddar — which exists only on the internet and not as a traditional satellite feed — is offering operators an irresistible deal: free carriage, with the programmer collecting 95% of its revenue through advertising.

The man leading the team of 130 Cheddar staffers is former Google and BuzzFeed executive Jon Steinberg, founder and CEO of the New York-based startup, which has raised $54 million to date. Steinberg recently exchanged email with B&C senior content producer, technology Daniel Frankel to discuss Cheddar’s business.

What brought you into the digital news market?

I started playing with computers when I was 10 or 11. I went on dial-up bulletin board systems as a kid and then the internet soon after, and was hooked. I spent a few years at Google, and then did my term as president and COO of Buzzfeed, and there was no going back.

How does Cheddar make its money? Only through advertising? What’s the business model in a nutshell?

We sell large, branded content integrations to advertisers looking to reach a young business audience. All of our advertisers are in six- to 12-month deals that run in excess of $1 million. CNBC has an average viewer that is 60-plus. We are the only game in town to reach a young audience in its 20s and 30s.

From what platforms does Cheddar get most of its audience? Can you break down the numbers?

We do hundreds of thousands of live viewers an hour across Sling TV, Hulu, YouTube TV, Twitter, Twitch, Facebook, etc. We also have our CheddarU network with 1,600 TVs on 600 campuses. We do hundreds of millions of video views a month on LinkedIn, Snap, Facebook too.

What are Cheddar’s audience demographics? (Looking for the key demo numbers here.) How does that compare to cable news? Does Cheddar even see itself competing with cable news?

Our audience is young professionals in their 20s through 40s that make substantial annual incomes and have large savings.

What are the most important stories Cheddar has reported? What are you most proud of?

I think our getting a hold of Evan Spiegel’s 2019 strategy memo was our most recent big exclusive. It moved the stock. All the traditional news sources had to cite us.

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