For those who can’t get enough man vs. nature drama in the Netflix series MeatEater that debuts today, there’s going to be a lot more red meat thrown to the base. Specifically, Trump’s base.
The Chernin Group, best known for its stakes in the digital brands Barstool Sports, Headspace, and The Athletic, has become a principle investor in MeatEater, a new company that will use the series, as well as the popular MeatEater podcasts, as a jumping-off point to create an outdoor lifestyle brand to first and foremost cater to the 40 million Americans who identify as hunters and anglers.
MeatEater, which originally launched in 2012 on the specialty cable network Sportsman Channel, follows Steven Rinella as he braves the wild in search of hogs, bison, and even billy goats, ultimately transforming his kill into killer, campfire-roasted meals. Netflix picked the series up earlier this year, and the season that bows today is its first as a Netflix Original show.
Rinella also hosts the MeatEater podcast, which is No. 1 in the outdoors category on iTunes, and has penned several books. The MeatEater website, meanwhile, serves as an online hub for videos, articles, and other content related to hunting and cooking in the wilderness. The brand has over 700,000 followers on Instagram alone.
Jason Bergsman, EVP of the Chernin Group, says outdoor enthusiasts are the kind of deeply engaged, yet relatively underserved, audiences that the company has historically taken an interest in. The company also targeted niche audiences via Otter Media, the digital company that it co-owned with AT&T before recently selling its share to the telecom giant. Some of Otter’s platforms include Crunchyroll, for anime fans, and Rooster Teeth, for the sci-fi crowd.
“We see a similar dynamic at play here with fishing, hunting, wild foods, and the outdoor lifestyle,” Bergsman says. “It’s a very compelling consumer category, given the scale of both enthusiasts who participate and their spending against those pursuits. When you have a foundation of 40 million people that spends an average of $2,000 a year on gear, apparel, media, travel and (hunting and fishing) licenses—that’s a pretty good place to start.”
The MeatEater deal extends Chernin’s move into programming for the Red State demographic, a segment of the population that feels largely alienated by Hollywood. In a landscape in which deep-pocketed companies like Netflix make headlines by signing production deals with the Obamas, investing in more populist content is an opportunity to, indeed, over serve an underserved audience online.
Wooing gatherers and not just hunters
The new MeatEater team, which includes new CEO Kevin Sloan (who ran the outdoor gear company Sitka for the last decade), hopes to grow MeatEater’s fanbase beyond core outdoors enthusiasts, given that Rinella and his shows tap into issues like wildlife conservation and the field-to-table movement.
“When Netflix put up a trailer for our new show, in the comments section someone wrote, ‘I’m a vegetarian, I’m becoming vegan, but I watch this show,” Rinella says. “So we’re creating an audience that might be a little surprised to be finding themselves fascinated by this stuff.”
Adds Sloan: “We are building a brand that is uncompromisingly authentic, an attribute that existing MeatEater fans already know to be true about Steve. By expanding this ethos and bringing together a group of unique experts who all share a deep reverence for the outdoors and an underlying commitment for conservation and wild foods, the MeatEater brand is poised to help outdoorsmen and women further their understanding of the natural world and enhance their pursuits within it.”
With the Chernin Group behind it, expect more MeatEater live events, TV shows, and podcasts, as well as more merchandising opportunities. Bergsman says that when Rinella did a four-city podcast tour last summer, “on the back of a few Instagram posts and podcast [ad reads], not only did 2,500 seats sell out in the pilot run, but within two days of one Instagram post, every one of the VIP tickets, that were priced at $80 to $100, sold out. That’s four cities in the U.S. that got people not just into seats but committed to spend twice as much as general admission, two to three months before the show came to town.”
MeatEater will also invest in more talent in an effort to grow the brand beyond Rinella. MeatEater contributors like Mark Kenyon, who hosts the Wired to Hunt podcast; flyfishing sensation April Vokey, host of the Anchored with April Vokey podcast; and Ben O’Brien of The Hunting Collective, will all be given more prominence with the hope of spinning out more content around their names.
“Our ambition is to allow those sub-brands associated with really great, indispensable talent to also find their audience as well,” Bergsman says.
Rinella, who is 44, says that when he was growing up, “the way we found inspiration around content was looking at Cabela’s magazine,” citing the well-known hunting- and fishing-gear retailer. “They were leather-bound, mail-order catalogs. That was our content, along with a handful of magazines like Outdoor Life and Field & Stream.
“So we’re really excited about having these contemporary notions—podcasts, live shows—applied to something that some people might look at the space and feel it has become a little stale over time.”