Chernin Group has become the principal investor in MeatEater Inc., a new outdoor-lifestyle company founded by Steven Rinella, author, podcaster and host of Netflix’s “MeaterEater” series.
The Bozeman, Montana-based media company, formed in February 2018, caters to an audience of wildlife enthusiasts, providing a hub for hunting, fishing, food and conservation. MeatEater will center on Rinella’s popular show and podcast, but will develop additional content that appeals not just to hunters and anglers but all fans of outdoor lifestyle and sustainable eating, execs said.
Fans of the MeatEater brand span all walks of life, and — notwithstanding the name — even includes some vegetarians, according to Rinella (pictured above).
“We felt there was real potential to expand MeatEater with other voices and into different platforms,” said Rinella, who recently relocated to Bozeman from Seattle. “It’s very contemporary — it’s grounded in historical awareness of our long-term relationship with wildlife in our country.”
The announcement of Chernin Group’s controlling stake in the startup coincides with the launch of season 7 of “MeatEater” on Netflix. The show previously aired on Sportsman Channel, which premiered the show in 2012.
For Chernin Group, the deal is the first digital-media investment after it completed its majority-ownership stake in Otter Media to AT&T in August. The deal for Otter Media, whose properties include Fullscreen, Rooster Teeth and Crunchyroll, was estimated to be valued at $1 billion.
Jason Bergsman, executive VP at Chernin Group who led the deal, originally connected with Rinella through Zero Point Zero. Chernin Group saw the opportunity to grow an “authentic brand” catering to the hunting and outdoor-lifestyle market. About 40 million Americans identify as hunters or anglers, and they spend more than $80 billion annually on apparel, gear, travel and related categories, according to Bergsman.
“From a media perspective, this space is historically underserved with digitally native brands,” Bergsman said.
Financial terms of Chernin Group’s investment in MeatEater Inc. weren’t disclosed. Bergsman said that “our expectation is we’ll be capitalizing the company with eight figures going forward,” meaning an investment of more than $10 million. “The intent is to provide the company with significant investment to execute on its plan,” he said.
Chernin Group owns a minority equity stake in MeatEater Inc. but in terms of governance has the controlling interest. Other stakeholders include Rinella, MeatEater Inc. CEO Kevin Sloan and Zero Point Zero Production, which produces “MeatEater” for Netflix.
Sloan, MeatEater’s CEO, joined the company in July after serving as president of hunting-apparel brand Sitka Gear. “My background is understanding outdoor and building brands, across the commerce spectrum,” he said.
MeatEater Inc. has already expanded its podcast lineup. In addition to Rinella’s flagship show, its lineup includes “Wired to Hunt,” “The Hunting Collective,” and fly-fishing podcast “Anchored with April Vokey.”
“There’s a lot of sameness in this space today, and that unique point of view is important to us,” Sloan said. MeatEater is in the process of engaging with other talent to acquire podcasts and create additional podcasts in-house. The company also expects to expand its short-form video production, build a commerce business with merchandise around the MeatEater brands, and grow in-person event.
Rinella said that while the backbone of the MeatEater audience is hunters and anglers, the company will be casting a wider net and build on its reach with urban-dwelling outdoor aficionados as well. “I’m always aware of the fact I’m talking to my tribe of people who’ve grown up in the outdoors, and want a relationship with the environment,” said Rinella, who grew up hunting and fishing in Western Michigan. “But I also aim outside that circle.”
Currently, MeatEater Inc. has about 10 employees; Sloan expects to double that by the end of 2018.
Other companies in Chernin Group’s portfolio include Barstool Sports, in which it owns a majority stake; Headspace, which makes a mindfulness and meditation app; and the Action Network, a roll-up venture geared around sports-betting stats and analytics.
“We are believers in and have experience in investing in strong, specific brands that inspire passion,” Bergsman said.