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CNN puts the kibosh on Beme as Casey Neistat leaves the company

Popular YouTube video creator Casey Neistat sold his Beme video sharing app to CNN in late 2016 for $25 million. Now plans to turn it into a video news group have ended.

Published onJanuary 25, 2018

  • Casey Neistat has left CNN after the news organization bought his Beme video-sharing app for $25 million in late 2016.
  • Neistat and the Beme team were supposed to be working on a video-based news project, but it never came together.
  • Most of Beme’s team will be rehired by CNN to work at other jobs in the company.

In late 2016, CNN took a chance on popular YouTube video creator Casey Neistat and purchased Beme, a video-sharing app Neistat co-created with Matt Hackett. It was released to Android in May 2016, but very few people actually used it. That didn’t stop CNN from acquiring Beme for a whopping $25 million in November 2016. Following the purchase, the Beme app itself was removed from the Google Play Store at the end of January 2017.

Neistat, Hackett, and the rest of the Beme team were supposed to create some kind of new video-based news organization under the CNN banner. However, it was never quite clear just what they were going to do, and now it appears that CNN has had enough of this experiment. Buzzfeed was the first to report that the Beme team is breaking up. Neistat and Hackett are leaving the company, while most of the 22-person Beme team will be rehired by CNN in other roles.

What happened? In a chat with Buzzfeed, Neistat admitted he could not find a way to turn Beme into the kind of video news organization he wanted to make, and instead spent more time making videos for his popular YouTube channel, which now has over 8.7 million subscribers. Neistat posted a video on his channel today that was supposed to talk more about his departure from CNN, but that clip has been quickly removed.

In his own post on Medium, Hackett says the Beme team made two products, including Panels, an app for Android and iOS that allowed users to upload video opinions about news topics. The other product, which was never released, was called Wire, which Hackett said would have been a “machine-learning-powered platform for journalists to cover live news in a world where your smartphone is always closer than your TV remote.” Features from both of these apps will now be added to the main CNN mobile app. The Beme team also launched its own YouTube channel, but it only posted about 40 videos over the span of six months. Hackett says that channel will continue under CNN’s digital studios.

All in all, it seems like the Beme team struggled to make the kind of internet-based news product that would be different than the norm. It also sounds like CNN wanted to see if Neistat’s experience in making popular YouTube videos could translate into a new and younger audience for its news group. All in all, this experience shows that throwing a lot of money at an Internet video creator to make a new product is no guarantee of success.

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