12:24pm PT by Lacey Rose
Former Glenn Beck Execs Launch Digital Media Venture, Sign Jason Blum's Blumhouse (Exclusive)
The men who played a key role in building Glenn Beck’s digital business are breaking out on their own.
Former Mercury Radio Arts president and TheBlaze CEO Chris Balfe and Blaze president Joel Cheatwood have launched a new digital media company, Red Seat Ventures, which is designed to connect content creators directly with their audiences, just as the pair famously did with Beck and his fiercely loyal fan base. The company is bowing with two clients already on board: Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions and radio network Premiere Networks, which has long counted Beck among its most prominent voices.
If all goes as planned, Red Seat will work with talent, agencies, and companies across the landscape, focused on those that have a traditional media platform as well as those who are digital natives. The start-up, merely rumored until now, will help clients define their strategies for content creation, distribution and monetization. The latter could entail a range of content options, from written content, short-form video and podcasts to bigger-budget TV and over-the-top platforms. The venture, which will be New York-based with an L.A. presence, is being self-funded by partners Balfe and Cheatwood along with other Beck vets Kevin Balfe and Carolyn Polke.
This is an opportunity for Balfe, Cheatwood and the team to apply some of the lessons they learned over the past four years building TheBlaze, which is often billed as one of the first direct-to-subscriber streaming video businesses. And as the partners wrote in a blog post on the company’s own Website, Red Seat will do more than simply consult: "After agreeing to a roadmap we actually put our own skin in the game — our time, our resources and our money — to make the businesses come to life."
In the same entry, the core team spoke candidly about the state of media, noting that platforms including Facebook and YouTube are already cutting out the middleman, while "the largest media companies scramble to adjust to the pace of change the opportunity for talent and brands to go directly to consumers is bigger than ever." To be sure, Beck has been successful in doing precisely this following his 2011 departure from Fox News, though his attempt to build a fully-distributed cable channel is still very much a work in progress.
News of Balfe and Cheatwood prepping their next venture first surfaced in March, though there was little more to report than a "stealth" digital media start-up at that time. Balfe, who had been Beck’s right-hand man for well over a decade, exited Beck’s multi-media empire in December. Cheatwood, who had worked with Beck for years at Fox News, where he served as senior vp of development, left earlier this year. There are seven employees at Red Seat's launch, with plans to ramp up to 15 within the month.
Below is the complete blog post announcing the new venture.
INTRODUCING RED SEAT
We're excited to announce our new digital media company, Red Seat Ventures. Our mission: directly connecting content creators and audiences.
There's never been a better time to be in the content business. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube are removing the traditional middlemen, while mobile content consumption across all mediums is skyrocketing. While the largest media companies scramble to adjust to the pace of change the opportunity for talent and brands to go directly to consumers is bigger than ever.
What is a media company these days? People now get so much of their news and information from social feeds, which are just as likely to show an update from a personality or brand as they are to show one from the New York Times. Since the creation of the Internet, people have predicted that it would level the playing field between the upstarts and the entrenched players. And it finally has.
But every talent or brand has a unique combination of what makes them stand out from the crowd. No two talents are the same, and therefore no two digital strategies should be. In some cases that might mean taking better advantage of a client's own web site, while in other cases the bigger opportunity could be to start an entirely new media brand.
Red Seat is designed to build talent and brand-focused digital businesses from the ground up, putting content creators in control of their own destiny. Red Seat works with talents, agencies, and companies across the spectrum, including those that have a traditional media platform as well as those that are digital natives. We help them to define the right strategies for content creation, distribution, and monetization.
Red Seat isn't just a consulting company. After agreeing to a roadmap we actually put our own skin in the game-our time, our resources, and our money-to make the businesses come to life. We have expertise across all key disciplines: social, mobile, technology, editorial, and sales.
From written content, short form video, and podcasts, all the way up to full TV production capabilities and OTT platform build-out, we have the right team to build whatever the strategy dictates. We're tremendously excited to announce our first two clients: Blumhouse Productions and Premiere Networks.
Blumhouse is a production company focusing on micro-budget films that have wide release potential. Blumhouse is particularly known for their horror franchises including Paranormal Activity, The Purge,Sinister and Insidious, which have combined to gross over $1.5 billion worldwide.
Premiere Networks is the #1 syndicator of radio programming, reaching 245 million people each month, and working with many of the top personalities in America. Red Seat will work with Premiere to invest additional resources in select talent web sites in order to increase the value of their digital businesses.
We're having exciting conversations with additional content creators across the media landscape. Each of our clients have a unique opportunity to build their businesses, take direct control of their fan relationships, and control their own destinies. We can't wait to get started.
Reach us directly by email at [email protected], we'd love to hear from you.
Chris Balfe Joel Cheatwood Carolyn Polke Kevin Balfe