Jon Steinberg, founder and CEO of Cheddar and president of Altice News, likens the process of developing digital media companies to “the drug discovery business.”
Steinberg tells Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast that developing Cheddar as a startup digital TV service offering business and entertainment news aimed at a millennial audience was similar to how pharmaceutical entrepreneurs develop new drugs. It starts in a lab setting but ultimately it takes a sale to Big Pharma to get a promising treatment off the ground.
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Cheddar went through a similar process since its founding in 2016. In April, cable operator Altice USA brought the company for $200 million, after having invested in the company early on. There’s a natural evolutionary cycle to media startups that demand heavy-duty resources and distribution infrastructure to drive growth.
“Altice could never have built Cheddar inside Altice and I could never have built Altice from Cheddar,” says Steinberg, who was named president of Altice News following the transaction.
Steinberg also details Altice’s strategy of deploying three news brands — hyper-local News 12 serving Altice’s stronghold of Long Island and environs, Cheddar and the growing i24 News service with an emphasis on news from the Middle East.
Steinberg opines that his experience with Cheddar — the focus on gaining TV distribution rather than internet traffic — has taught him a contrarian lesson about the media business. “Distribution is more important than content,” he says. No matter how good your content is, if you can’t get it out there no one is gong to see it or read it.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.