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The keys to Cheddar’s success: an interview with Melissa Rosenthal

Melissa Rosenthal interview splash

Cheddar has been one of the big success stories to come out of digital native live streaming video. In this interview, an executive of the company explains why Cheddar is different, how it monetizes millennials, its distribution strategy, and its radically different approach to marketing the service.

This interview with Melissa Rosenthal, EVP at Cheddar, was recorded by nScreenMedia at the TV of Tomorrow Show in New York City on December 4th, 2019. It occurred soon after I did an extended interview with Ms. Rosenthal on stage at the show.

What is Cheddar?

“Cheddar is the first post-cable network focused on finance, business, and technology for millennials.”

How does Cheddar differ in its news coverage from a traditional network?

Melissa Rosenthal EVP Cheddar 1“Traditional networks have talent that’s a little older, and they’ve focused a lot on more conventional stocks, like oil and gas and financials. Their guests are a lot older. We have on <the Cheddar network> the companies that are changing their respective industries. A lot of early-stage companies that are IPOing come on. We view ourselves as an early adopter in the content and guests we choose to have on, rather than focusing on the fully established companies and brands that are already successful.”

Monetizing millennials is notoriously tricky. Please tell us how you go about it.

“Our belief is that the content we are working on with brands should be very integrated into the programming in a way that adds value. I want to explain something that we have learned from what we are doing with our partnerships. We don’t run traditional ads on our network. We create curated, branded programming in collaboration spots. For instance, we work with Aly Bank on a great show called Your Cheddar, which is focused on personal finance for millennials. We consider it the college course you wish you had in finance. It establishes how you should be looking at your finances from an early age. Then it shows you how you should be thinking about different life stages, and how you should be planning for those. We program it around the type of guests that our audience would want to see. If a brand can establish value with a viewer, there’s a trust created. That will eventually result in top of mind <awareness> and to sales.”

Cheddar seems to be everywhere today. Can you tell us about your distribution strategy?

Melissa Rosenthal EVP Cheddar 2“To start, it was that we needed to be distributed anywhere that we can. And that started with Facebook Live. Obviously, the ultimate goal was to be on every OTT system in the U.S., but that wasn’t the only goal. The goal was to be everywhere our viewer is and not expecting them to come and find us. Your audience must be reaching you in multiple touchpoints, multiple places, throughout their life and their day. So, if you see us at the gas station that’s one touchpoint, if you see a piece of content on social, that’s another. If you’re watching us on OTT, that’s a third. We hope that you’ll come back and watch us time-after-time for hours. So, multiple touchpoints that result in you watching us for hours on one of the OTT systems.”

How is Cheddar marketed?

“Out bootstrapped approach was to create a social strategy that was complementary to what we were doing as a live media network. Instead of spending tons of money on marketing, we felt we could create a really robust cross-platform marketing strategy through content. So, what we did was create gadget videos focused on future and concept technology that would resonate with people that would also be interested in the Cheddar Network. We would create this amazingly robust content strategy. Then we found that the more people consumed the content on social, the more likely they were to click on Cheddar when they were scrolling through the guide on Sling or Hulu Live.

How do you get people on your owned and operated platforms?

The conversion isn’t going to be driving away from social to OTT. They’re going to be on OTT in part of their day and are going to be more likely to click on Cheddar when they’re in that environment. The goal was never to see, “you see this Cheddar video, immediately you are going stop watching and go watch it on Sling.” That’s not a realistic way of thinking about it. It’s for different parts of the day, different stages in their life. Wherever they are, reaching them there, and then eventually the conversion will happen.”

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