Peter Gorenstein, chief content officer and board member of the “post-cable” media company Cheddar (New York), was the guest of honor at the NJ Tech Meetup in March, held at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken.
He sat down for a fireside chat with Aaron Price, who founded the meetup group nine years ago.
During the discussion, Gorenstein made it clear that Cheddar, a live and on-demand streaming financial and news network, is aimed at a younger demographic.
“CNBC’s average viewer is presently 60-plus years of age. Nobody was really out there providing interesting business news on startups and related things to younger people,” he said. Cheddar has been filling that niche since its inception.
“We are a post-cable network company, and you will find us streaming on all of the skinny-bundled internet services, including distribution partners such as Hulu, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV,” Gorenstein noted.
Cheddar, which originally got its name from a slang term for money, routinely receives over 400 to 500 million video views per month across all its platforms. Many of the most avid viewers fall into one of two categories, “cord-cutters” or “cord-nevers,” he said.
“Many people find Cheddar’s content on Samsung TV, Facebook, YouTube and many other, similar streaming OTT [over-the-top] services,” Gorenstein added. By 2023, 30 million households are projected to have at least one of these bundled platforms.
Cheddar was founded in early 2016 by CEO Jon Steinberg, who had previously been president and COO of BuzzFeed, and had also served as CEO of MailOnline (Daily Mail) North America.
While a senior executive producer at Yahoo!, Gorenstein was hired very early on by Steinberg: during the channel’s first month of operations. Cheddar began streaming a few months later, going live in April 2016.
The company’s first office was at a WeWork facility in New York, and Gorenstein fondly recalled giving his personal credit card to the first 15 employees, so they could individually purchase their own Apple computers. Their first production control room? It was located in a repurposed storage closet.
Cheddar raised approximately $3 million during its inaugural funding round; and, according to Crunchbase, it has amassed a total of $54 million in growth capital over four rounds. And the team has expanded to about 180 people.
Gorenstein claimed that despite its growth, the company still maintains a bank balance of approximately $35 million, attesting to the senior management’s strong oversight, operational success and efficiency. “We hope to never have to raise another dime again.”
He alluded to the valuable lessons he had learned at BuzzFeed, such as the perils of expanding too rapidly, which at least partially accounts for Cheddar’s fiscal conservatism.
In his role as CCO, Gorenstein is responsible for vetting all produced videos that end up on air, and he ultimately decides what makes or doesn’t make that cut.
The company’s YouTube channel has almost 250,000 subscribers. A quick online scan of recent Cheddar videos ranged from a story with over one million hits titled, “Why 3D Logos Fell out of Favor Overnight” to an exposé titled, “Hip Hop’s Underground Beat Economy,” which was from a month ago and has garnered almost 50,000 YouTube views to date.
“The engagement on YouTube is true, and viewer comments are real,” Gorenstein insisted. “We hired a good head of growth and audience, which has really helped us. Cheddar also teamed up with like-minded publishers early on; that got us off to a solid start on this and other streaming services.”
Gorenstein believes that the news channel benefits from having a consistent voice and from its six- to seven-minute long-form videos, which “get the hamster wheel going” for Cheddar, with its numerous followers.
During the week, it broadcasts live on-air for 18 hours a day, including from its makeshift studio on the trading floor of the venerable New York Stock Exchange.
Cheddar features regular daily reporting on the happenings in Washington. Gorenstein mentioned that it had been a proud day for the organization when it was finally awarded official White House press credentials.
The typical weekday also includes about 30 live on-air guest interviews ― from corporate CEOs to a cross section of other newsmakers.
On weekends, the live segments, which typically cover public media and tech-related companies, are combined, stacked and edited together into 30-minute slots for streaming.
Cheddar does not receive any carriage fees, but it does run branded content on its shows, for which it charges. The service also generates its fair share of ad-based revenue, he said.
What does the future hold for Cheddar and other streaming channels and broadcasters? Gorenstein foresees a world in which traditional cable services have gone away, and been replaced with skinny bundles.
“There will also be lots more media consolidation,” he predicted.