Whalerock to Build Digital Channels for Kardashians, Howard Stern, Others

By Sahil Patel

A trend that was essentially started by Glenn Beck, when he launched a digital streaming channel and sold it directly to his fans, is increasingly becoming commonplace online. Others, including Sarah Palin and Paula Deen, have since started similar ventures, with the hopes of bypassing traditional networks and other middlemen to deliver content to and engage with their audience directly.

Now, Whalerock Industries (formerly BermanBraun) wants to help more celebrities go direct to consumer. Whalerock, which oversees digital sites like Wonderwall, will soon launch multiple streaming channels for celebrities like the Kardashian sisters, Howard Stern, and Tyler, the Creator.

Each star will have his or her own channel, which will serve as digital hubs featuring original and exclusive video, photos, and other types of content depending on who the celebrity is. (Tyler, the Creator’s channel, for instance, could also offer music.) There will be a mix of free (and ad-supported) and paid programming on the channels, which will be available online and via mobile apps.

In total, Whalerock hopes to launch 12–20 “app-based” channels by 2018, the company said. Another possibility: bundling some of the channels together and cutting distribution deals with traditional pay-TV and online distributors.

Whalerock will earn revenue by taking a cut of advertising and subscription revenue generated from the channels.

Of course, Whalerock isn’t the only company hoping to leverage the influence of celebrities to build digital content channels. Tapp, a startup from former NBC and CNN executives Jeff Gaspin and Jon Klein and backed by Discovery and Google chairman Eric Schmidt, is also playing in this field. To date, its launched streaming channels for political personalities like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain.

Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze is considered a success, with a reported subscriber base of 400,000 paying $10 per month. It’s unclear how many of the others are performing. WWE, which made a splash by launching its own over-the-top service last year, has struggled in growing a subscriber base strong enough to satisfy investors and analysts. It just surpassed 1 million subscribers last month, even though it’s available in over 170 countries.

For the Whalerock-built channels, the first one will be for Tyler, which will roll out by June, according to the report. It will be followed by channels for the Kardashian sisters, then one for Stern.

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