Over the years, many people have come to love The Young Turks for its particular brand of progressive politics and news commentary on cable TV and online. Now that it’s completely digital, though, the company behind the show is looking to grow the business, with $4 million in new funding.
The Young Turks started out as a radio talk show hosted by Cenk Uygur before being picked up for cable TV distribution on Current TV. But after the network was acquired by Al Jazeera America, the show was cancelled, and the show went digital-only, with its primary distribution on YouTube.
The Young Turks is by far the most popular regular show produced by the network. Of the network’s nearly 70 million views per month, more than half come from The Young Turks the show.
But there are about 25 different channels of content that fall under the TYT umbrella. That ranges from college content at TYT University to sports content at TYT Sports to movie and TV reviews at What the Flick?!
YouTube isn’t TYT’s only money-maker, either: The network also has a subscription offering for its superfans. It has a basic membership available for $10 a month, which gives viewers The Young Turks and Post-Game Show podcasts without commercial breaks, as well as access to on-demand content which they can stream or download.
According to TYT COO Steve Oh, 50-60 percent of the company’s revenues come from YouTube ads, while another 25-35 percent come from TYT subscribers who get access to premium content. The remainder of its revenue comes from merchandise sales and other smaller lines of business.
That said, the folks at TYT realize there’s more they can do to move the business forward, and that’s where the new funding comes in.
The funding comes from Roemer, Robinson, Melville & Co., LLC, a private equity firm led by former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer. Yes, you read that correctly
left-wing progressive online news program gets funded by right-wing conservative southern governor.
But maybe that’s the point. While the money ultimately comes from a guy who might have some political differences of opinion, at least it’s not someone who’s going to try to change the way things are run.
After more or less bootstrapping the company to get this far, Oh told me in a phone conversation that they didn’t want to take money from traditional VC firm. “For right now, we wanted access to capital with as few strings attached as possible,” Oh said. “We have no desire to grow this quickly and exit quickly… We want to build this into a sustainable business.”
There’s also the possibility of having that group commit more money: There’s a clause in which Roemer’s private equity group could add an additional $4 million in funding as part of this raise.
With the money, TYT plans to expand to more platforms and streaming devices, such as mobile phones and tablets (iOS and Android). The company already has a channel on Roku, allowing viewers to watch the show on their biggest screen in the house, but there’s a desire to be even more multiplatform.
TYT also hopes to strike more local and international syndication deals for its content.
Perhaps most importantly, the company hopes to build out its sales team, which could help improve CPMs and enable it to strike more branded sponsorship deals with advertisers.
Due to the lack of an advertising team currently, “We’re leaving money on the table,” Oh said.