Today, Cheddar celebrates its first birthday, and what a party it should be! In under a year, the millennial-focused finance video service founded by former Buzzfeed President and COO Jon Steinberg has left an indelible mark on the financial journalism industry, shown a new way to deliver money news and managed to convert its appeal to millennials into big deals with such established outlets as Vanity Fair. All this while raising more than $13-million in venture capital, including a $10-million Series B round announced in September 2016.
It’s financial news as you’ve never seen it, and warning—it gets addicting. So what is Cheddar doing so right? Well, at this stage, just about everything.
The Hosts and Guests
The hosts are not your typical CNBC or Fox Business reporters. They are younger, less jaded and more enthusiastic about new approaches to money and business. They don’t just drone on about stocks and bonds. They don’t fight and yell and pretend there needs to be a debate. They ask questions that are of interest to a wide array of people, not just stock market addicts.
“The audience is people in their 20’s and 30’s. That’s who the hosts need to be,” said Steinberg via email. “They need to be contemporaries of the audience and think like them. Also, we found great, smart people in typically behind-the-scenes roles; people looking for their shot to get on camera.”
That approach has paid dividends, not only in the way fans have reacted but in the level of A-list guests Cheddar has drawn to the network, including such business trailblazers as IAC Chairman Barry Diller, GE CMO Linda Boff and CBS CEO Les Moonves, who did his interview via Skype from his office. Cheddar isn’t only focused on old school business, as its done appealing interviews with new school business minds such as hip-hop star Akon, who joined Cheddar hosts from their set on the floor of the NYSE, Tinder CEO Sean Rad and Twitch Chief Revenue Officer Jonathan Simpson, among others.
Relaxed Vibe, Modern Delivery
Cheddar is decidedly more tranquil than other business and finance offerings. Many times on top-tier financial outlets, guests are competing for airtime with other panelists, fighting for the spotlight, and it can be tough for a coherent thought to emerge among all the over talking. At Cheddar, they want to hear what their guest is saying. Hosts are asking about details that impact their listeners, and they don’t want to see their guests end up in the muck. And it’s done with more humor and personality, without ever feeling formal.
The only ties you will see on Cheddar are on the guests. The style is more relaxed, as you’d expect from a video service that is eschewing cable and instead streaming on Amazon, Facebook Live, SlingTV, Roku and Apple TV.
“Cable boxes are relics. A new generation of content would be delivered over the web, mobile and smart TVs,” said Steinberg about his approach to programming.
Cheddar’s business model is similar to Netflix and Hulu. After a 30-day free trial, users pay $6.99/month or $59.99/year for unlimited content as well as access to the more than 1,500 videos already in their library.
Viewers Aren’t Just Viewers
From minute one at Cheddar, it was vital to have audience participation in the shows. Through real time social media interaction, viewers can vote, comment and be heard. Although that’s not groundbreaking in video streaming overall, it certainly is in the finance media industry.
And you can expect a lot more of that in Cheddar’s second year. What you saw early on was just for the network to get a feel for what the audience would respond to, but it hardly satisfied Steinberg.
“We need even more interaction. Comments and polls are OK, but we need to push to something even more interesting and compelling. Maybe we allow the audience to select segments. Maybe we let them video conference in,” he said.
One beauty of Cheddar is their business approach demands they try new things, using what works, scrapping what doesn’t. But given Steinberg’s history at Buzzfeed, you can be sure there will be more innovation down the road that will have an impact on the overall landscape of financial media, trickling up to the cable channels.
Money doesn’t have to be boring. Finance talk doesn’t have to put you to sleep. Not only do the hosts not take themselves so seriously that they forget live video can be fun, but the producers and executives are in on the act as well. Tune in, and at any given time, you may see Steinberg chowing down on his favorite foods from his beloved The Palm restaurant. Or watch the millennial hosts morph into the excitement of feeling like it’s Christmas morning as they unbox the newest laptops. Cheddar’s voice is hip and young. Its goal is to make money and the culture of business fun to talk about. This choice to not be so staid is making the network attractive to advertisers and has certainly garnered the attention of the highly coveted Millennial generation, while also appealing to GenXers.
While still in it’s young growing stages, the future for Cheddar looks very bright. Steinberg wants to expand the programming footprint, with more live hours, as well as more focus on technology, media, markets, startups and science.
Part of that plan was laid out in the first half of January 2017, when Vanity Fair announced a streaming partnership with Cheddar to create a new live weekly series. “VF Hive on Cheddar” will premier in February, live casting from Cheddar’s NYSE hub and will feature Vanity Fair editors and reporters.
Steinberg has other deals in the works as he continues to spearhead the growth of this great new network. Tune in, and enjoy a whole new approach to financial news.
The cheese may indeed stand alone.
Disclosure: I have been interviewed as a financial advisor multiple times on Cheddar. Cheddar is not affiliated with LPL Financial.