Bay Area-based online video startup Haystack TV has raised a new $2 million round of funding to build out its news streaming service for cord cutters and other smart TV users. Vestel Ventures, AltaIR Capital, SVLinks and Stanford StartX all participated in the funding round.
Haystack launched in 2014 with apps for Android and iOS that aggregated news videos from YouTube, with the goal of building a CNN-like personalized news experience for cord cutters. Fast forward 4 years, and Haystack has shifted much of its focus to smart TVs, explained cofounder Ish Harshawat during a recent interview with Variety. “Turns out the best place to show TV news is on TV,” he quipped.
The company’s app is now prominently featured on Sony and Vizio TVs, and pre-loaded to an estimated 37% of TV sets shipped in the U.S.. The new funding lays the ground for an expansion into Europe, where Vestel is known as the continent’s second-biggest TV manufacturer.
Haystack has also stuck a number of partnerships with over 200 publishers, including local affiliates of big broadcasters like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox as well as national news sources like Cheddar, Al Jazeera and others. These partnerships have helped the company to build out its local news coverage, giving it the ability to stream personalized local news in 80% of the country.
“The publishers love us,” said Haystack TV co-founder and CEO Daniel Barreto, adding that most local newscasters were happy about an additional revenue sources that make use of their timely coverage. “Their content expires very quickly,” he said.
Harshawat also argued that free, personalized news feeds that are served up on demand better address the needs of today’s audiences than live feeds of traditional newscasters. Younger viewers weren’t interested in watching politically siloed news coverage on Fox, CNN or MSNBC, he said. “Millennials don’t want that.”
Haystack didn’t disclose any monthly user numbers, but said that its users stream 50 million minutes of news coverage every month. The company now employs around 10 people. Including the new funding, Haystack has raised a total of $4.5 million.