YouTube Star Casey Neistat Joins CNN For Launch of New Brand

By A.J. Katz 

CNN is looking to establish itself as a digital news powerhouse. The company launched the Great Big Story last year, a digital storytelling startup, and went on to tout its dominance among millennials in the digital space earlier this summer. In addition, the company brought Buzzfeed’s entire K-File political team on-board early last month in hopes of expanding its digital footprint and delivering that coveted millennial audience. Now, CNN is banking on another online personality to deliver his significant online following to the company: YouTube star Casey Neistat.

CNN Worldwide announced today that it has acquired Neistat’s video social app Beme, along with its 11-person development team. CNN will shut down Beme, and create a standalone digital media company funded by CNN that will become part of the CNN Digital portfolio. The company will launch next summer. Name is TBD.

The jet-setting, thrill-seeking Neistat, who was just named on Adweek’s 2016 Hot List as Digital Creator of the Year, will receive the title of executive producer for the new company. He and his team will be tasked with delivering that coveted audience by building timely, topical news-focused video content for the new brand, as well as developing mobile video capabilities for CNN’s portfolio of digital properties. CNN is banking on its global reach and resources to aid Neistat’s unique ability to attract tech-savvy audiences.

In an interview with Adweek, Neistat hinted at plans of moving into a video medium.

Beme, which lets you share brief videos by covering your phone’s proximity sensor, had around 1.2 million downloads after launching in the summer of 2015. It’s similar to Snapchat, but never really got as much traction.

Beme users will receive a notification today to download their videos before the app completely shuts down.

Neistat’s YouTube channel, which has 715 videos and almost 6 million subscribers, will remain separate from CNN.