Progressive digital outlet The Young Turks has raised $20 million in a round of funding led by the growth equity firm 3L Capital.
Additional investors included VC firm Greycroft, an investor in companies that have included The Skimm, The Dodo and The Huffington Post; e.ventures, a mobile and tech-focused VC firm whose investments include Angie’s List, Pulse and Sonos; and WndrCo, the media company started by DreamWorks co-founder and former Walt Disney Studios chair Jeffrey Katzenberg that focuses on producing short, mobile video.
The funds will be targeted toward building out The Young Turks’ subscription-based service, creating new programming, hiring additional staff, and increasing community engagement initiatives. Founder and CEO Cenk Uygur told Fishbowl that in the next few years TYT plans to double its staff, which currently includes about 70 full-time members and 30 contractors. That will include creating sales and subscription teams in addition to more editorial staff hires. This comes on the heels of a recently completed fundraising campaign by TYT that reached its $2 million goal in May and led to the hire of 8 reporters/contributors.
“We already have a great product, and organically we’ve already grown it in a way that I think is pretty impressive, especially given the price point, but now we can build much better infrastructure around it,” says Uygur of plans for the subscription service. “Right now we don’t even have an app, so we’re going to build apps, we’re going to A/B test, and we’re going to deliver a product in a far more effective way.” TYT’s member program provides access to members-only programming on tiered monthly or annual plans that come with additional perks at higher membership levels.
With the funding comes the addition of 3L co-founder and managing partner Shawn Colo to TYT’s board, which counts among its members Uygur, Jam City COO and president Josh Yguado and Kenan Turnacioglu, one of TYT’s Series A investors.
“TYT has done a tremendous job developing a deeply engaged millennial community, as evidenced by the size of its paid subscription membership and total watch time” said Colo in a statement. “This financing will allow the company to accelerate its reach and further its leadership in the massive and evolving market of online news and entertainment.”
While not the first round of investment for The Young Turks, it is certainly the biggest. Previous investments include $4 million from a firm headed up by Buddy Roemer, a former Republican governor who shares Uygur’s philosophy against the influence of money in politics. A subsequent round of investment raised $4.25 million.
Asked whether this round of significant corporate investment opens The Young Turks, which regularly rails against corporate influence, to criticism, Uygur is unfazed. “There’s this really funny critique by the right wing now, where they say, ‘you’re against money in politics, and how corporations shouldn’t put money into politics, so haha, then you also shouldn’t put money into companies,'” he says. “Those two things are totally unconnected. How would you run a corporation if you don’t have money in it?”
“We have a corporation, and I’ve said this a million times on the show, the idea that companies are evil is absurd. They’re machines. They’re amoral. And if you allow them to legally bribe politicians, then of course they will. That will be to their advantage. Our ask is very, very simple: don’t let them put money into politics. And we’re incredibly consistent on that,” he says.
The Young Turks Network, which includes the flagship news show and a network of subject-specific programs like TYT Sports and What the Flick?!, has been livestreaming its shows on YouTube since 2005, amassing 3.4 million YouTube subscribers along the way. The network reports that it receives 200 million views across all its platforms, according to data calculated from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, AOL On, Comcast Watchable, Pluto and member and app views.