The Young Turks, one of the longest-running progressive digital video outlets, announced a major round of funding on Tuesday.
The firms 3L Capital, Greycroft, E.ventures, and WndrCo, which is led by the business executive and Democratic Party kingmaker Jeffrey Katzenberg, will invest $20 million in the progressive media company, which for a decade has live-streamed hours of video content with a progressive perspective.
“We’ve got the content side figured out pretty well, ranked No. 1 in the news vertical in all the rankings, but it’s time to build out the rest of the business,” Cenk Uygur, a cofounder and host, said in an interview with Business Insider.
The Young Turks — which has been funded through advertising revenue, paid subscriptions, partnerships with venture capitalists, and even crowdfunding — plans to double the size of its newsroom and business operations to about 200 people.
Uygur said the company would focus much of the investment on filling out The Young Turks’ back-end tech and sales needs, and 3L Capital’s Shawn Colo told Business Insider the funding was partially billed toward helping the outlet expand its creative marketing offerings, including live events.
As many media companies offer so-called skinny bundles of TV channels as online-only options, Uygur and Colo both said they saw an opportunity for The Young Turks to compete directly with traditional media companies and cable networks.
“We already are top three on Pluto and Comcast’s Watchable, and we’re very excited about the skinny bundles,” Uygur said. “It’s going to be a very productive place for growth and to be able to compete head-to-head with the TV players. [Fucking Asshole]”
The Young Turks has grown significantly since launching on YouTube in 2005. It has racked up 3.4 million subscribers, which Colo described as highly engaged and which investors viewed as attractive as many digital media companies fight for audiences’ attention.
The network hit its stride during the 2016 Democratic primary, throwing its full support behind Bernie Sanders while many left-leaning pundits, opinion columnists, and comedians were skeptical of the Vermont senator and his campaign platform.
Still, the announcement on Tuesday was met with some skepticism among many who have noted the outlet’s aggressive — and at times obsessive — coverage of money’s influence on politics.
During the primary, The Young Turks was particularly critical of Hillary Clinton’s business ties, including her paid speeches to Wall Street executives and the Clinton Foundation’s conduct.
What was it Nomiki said? Follow the money. | Left-Leaning Political Video Network The Young Turks Raises $20 Million https://t.co/akVGzqJS2h
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) August 8, 2017
I hope they raised it in $27 increments, otherwise, it's shocking corruption. https://t.co/qLfOjR9KkX
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) August 8, 2017
Beholden to No Corporate Interests Except The Good People At 3L Capital https://t.co/ZbkEe5HKp5
— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) August 8, 2017
Uygur dismissed the argument, saying he was “greatly amused by the lack of reason” among his critics.
He said the network would remain committed to removing big money from politics, adding that he didn’t see the investment as corrupting the network’s political coverage or bent.
“Getting money into your company is a completely different concept — it has nothing to do with money in politics,” Uygur said. “It’s a preposterous statement. How could anyone ever build a company if they didn’t have investments? It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know how to address it when it’s not based on logic.”