CNN is shutting down the Beme brand acquired along with a self-titled app in late 2016 as part of a deal valued at $25 million, BuzzFeed reported Thursday, citing a company official, as well as Beme’s creator Casey Neistat. The YouTube celebrity joined CNN when he sold the app but said he struggled to identify a viable strategy for evolving the platform under the media giant’s corporate umbrella and is now set to leave the firm. “I couldn’t find answers,” Mr. Neistat said, adding that he would often return to making YouTube videos so as to try and provide CNN with more direct value than what Beme’s other endeavors were yielding. Matt Hackett, the other Beme co-founder, will also be leaving CNN.
The acquisition of Beme was meant to mark the start of “a new kind of news company,” which was its official slogan following the CNN deal. The app originally started as a casual video sharing tool which encouraged spontaneous use and placed a high emphasis on having users experience the things it was meant to film. The latter point was realized through a built-in mechanism that wouldn’t allow the app to begin filming unless the user placed the smartphone on their chest so as to focus on whatever they deemed worth filming instead of staring at it through a handset screen. The novel idea resonated with Mr. Neistat’s audience and soon led to millions of videos being shared through the app on a daily basis but the project failed to find a firm identity within CNN. The media firm’s digital business executive Andrew Morse said the investment was “worth taking” regardless of its ultimate outcome. Some of Beme’s employees will be offered other positions within CNN but the closure of the unit will still lead to layoffs.
The move comes amid a larger digital reshuffling effort on CNN’s part, with the Turner-owned firm recently killing off its Snapchat show “The Update” due to profitability concerns only four months after launching it. Like the rest of the media industry, CNN is expected to continue experimenting with unconventional news formats in a bid to remain competitive in the market whose revenue has been eroding for years now, having been largely absorbed by Google and Facebook.