YouTube sensation Casey Neistat last week announced he was quitting his daily video blog and now we know why: his app, Beme, has just been acquired by CNN along with its 11-person team. The deal, according to The Wall Street Journal, is valued at $25 million.
CNN announced Monday that it will shut down Beme and allow Neistat to create a new project to attract his online followers to the media company. According to The New York Times, Neistat will have full creative control to build a separate company that lets the audience share “timely and topical videos” and start conversations around current events.
“Casey has tapped into nearly six million really powerful viewers, most of which do not tune in to CNN,” Andrew Morse, global head of CNN Digital, told NYT. “To build this audience authentically, we believe we need to build something new.”
The project — slated for a summer 2017 launch — will operate as a standalone extension of CNN much like Great Big Story, the media giant’s answer to BuzzFeed. In a press release, CNN says Great Big Story will continue to focus on “untold stories” while Neistat’s project will attempt to build engagement around news topics.
“It’s going to be very different from Beme and bigger than a single product,” Neistat told us in a phone interview.
“There is a tremendous distrust between the audience that watches my content online and the information that is put out by traditional media. Our broad ambition is to figure out a way with tech and media to bridge the gigantic divide.”
What exactly that is remains to be explored by Neistat and his team. “[CNN’s] confidence [in us] is in the lack of specifics,” he said. The goal isn’t to necessarily get his viewers to start watching CNN but to build an audience of their own, starting with the ones who’ve closely followed Neistat’s YouTube channel. At the time of writing, he has more than 5.8 million subscribers.
Neistat confirmed that his YouTube channel will not be a part of CNN and he is free to continue posting videos about his perspectives and experiences. Shutting down the daily vlogs will allow him to evolve the YouTube channel into something bigger, he said, and does not expect him or his YouTube content to appear as CNN’s.
“I am someone with an opinion and perspective and I do not expect that to change, I do not shy away from sharing my personal beliefs. What we’re building together — I wouldn’t tie to anything that specific.”
Beme, which lets you capture short videos by covering your phone’s proximity sensor, had 1.2 million downloads after launching in July 2015. It followed the same unedited video model as Snapchat, though it never quite caught on after the first few months — Neistat even posted a follow-up video explaining “what the hell happened to Beme.” Beme users will receive a notification today to download their videos before the app completely shuts down.
Update November 28th, 12:35PM ET: Updated to include our interview with Casey Neistat and Beme’s $25M valuation.