The Young Turks/AmEx Film Deal Makes Movie Watching ‘Democratic’

Financial company talks about distributing cinema online

Since director Davis Guggenheim's latest film Spent: Looking for Change revolves around Americans who are living outside the financial system, sponsor American Express believed that the best way to allow the public to view it was to put it out on the great equalizer: the Internet.

"We wanted to premiere Spent online instead of through a typical theatrical release because it's the most democratic way for people to view the movie," Leah Gerstner, AmEx vp of public affairs, told Adweek. "Technology is the hero for creating better options for the financially underserved, and we felt we should look to technology to distribute this film to a wide audience—through our partners like The Young Turks, who have a large, engaged audience and a reputation for honestly tackling issues that are often underreported, as well as through a broad social media campaign."

AmEx partnered with the biggest digital news org on YouTube, The Young Turks, to distribute the movie. While it marks the first foray into film distribution for TYT, the content fits directly with its audience of more than 38 million views a month, per the company. The Cenk Uygur-led organization is known for being outspoken about American economic issues, especially when they pertain to low-income and disadvantaged sectors, and saw the movie as a way to drive more awareness to the topic. 

"We are a content company, and whether it's a 140-second clip on the top news of the day or a 30-plus minute documentary, we are happy to curate and distribute that content if it is compelling and fits into our programming," said The Young Turks COO Steve Oh.

The film will debut on June 4 in Los Angeles. Then, it will stream for free on TYT's YouTube page, as well as and AmEx's YouTube page, where it will be hosted by TYT. Gerstner said digital distribution allows people to see the film instantly on their own schedules instead of having to go to a theater or wait for a film festival.

The financial organization has been heavily pushing its brand digitally, including its Unstaged concert series featuring Pharrell Williams. Gerstener added AmEx is also making a push to improve financial inclusion across the U.S. The company provides products like Bluebird, a checking account and debit card with a points system for bonuses, and prepaid card American Express Serve. In addition, AmEx also donates money to startups that provide solutions for financial inclusion.

"We hope Spent will bring awareness to this important issue and inspire new thinking, new ideas, as well as collaboration from the public and private sectors, nonprofits, startups, regulators and policymakers to work toward change," Gerstner added.

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