Cheddar, Web Video Maker, Bets Millennials Will Use TV Antennasby
Startup plans digital antenna giveaway with Dunkin’ Donuts
Several online media companies are exploring TV programming
Cheddar, an online business news channel that targets millennials, is betting it can coax young viewers to look up from their mobile phones to watch old-time broadcast TV, and it’s giving away antennas with Dunkin’ Donuts to prove it.
The network will air programming on digital UHF stations in five markets that reach more than 4 million homes. Cheddar is renting the broadcast spectrum from DTV America, which owns the licenses. Dunkin’ Donuts, which already advertises on Cheddar, will distribute antennas at events in those markets.
While young viewers don’t watch much regular TV, some are buying antennas to supplement their Netflix and Amazon binge-watching with still-free over-the-air-programming, said Jon Steinberg, founder of Cheddar and former chief operating officer at BuzzFeed. The company cited data showing the number of broadcast TV homes is rising, even as cable-TV accounts have peaked and are shrinking.
“Anywhere we can provide a stream that replicates that cable news viewing experience is where we’re going to be,” Steinberg said in an interview.
The digital antennas are slim rectangles that bear little resemblance to old-fashioned “bunny ears” and offer a variety of free-to-air broadcast stations at a low cost. Cheddar will air on so-called UHF subchannels, bits of the spectrum that came into use when broadcasters switched to digital signals. Its videos will appear in Cleveland; Orlando, Florida; and Kansas City, Missouri -- on channel 42.5 in the latter market.
Steinberg said he’s also working on getting his network carried on new “skinny” bundles of live TV channels streamed online.
Cheddar, which formed a year ago and has raised about $13 million from investors like Comcast Corp., has positioned itself as a business news channel for young people who don’t pay for cable. About 1 million people see Cheddar live each day, largely through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
The company has two feeds. One is a paid version that airs eight hours of programming a day, including six hours that are live. It’s distributed on Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV, Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime, and via its own app, where subscribers pay $2.99 a month.
It also has a second feed -- two to three hours a day of original content plus archived programming -- that’s carried on Facebook and will air on the broadcast stations. Cheddar airs branded content on that feed, like segments sponsored by HP Inc. in which anchors talk about innovation with HP computers on a desk and an HP logo on screen.
Cheddar’s entry into television is just the latest example of online media securing a place on traditional TV. Several digital media companies, including BuzzFeed, are exploring ways to get their online video programming on broadcast and cable TV channels to increase revenue.