A lefty media platform with a growing audience
by Karen Kahn
As newsrooms struggle to survive, new models have bubbled up, including some very successful nonprofit newsrooms like ProPublica and Kaiser Health News. But if you are looking for something more revolutionary, tune in to Means TV. Launched by Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes, who created winning campaign ads for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez back in 2018, Means TV is the first “worker-owned, post-capitalist” streaming service, and costs just $10/month to subscribe. No corporate sponsors, no ads.
That’s because Means TV is a purpose-driven organization, with three goals:
- To create a worker-owned media infrastructure that reflects and empowers working-class people;
- To create and distribute worker-owned, anti-capitalist entertainment free from advertisers and financial extraction; and
- To practice economic, cultural, racial, religious, and gender inclusivity.
Means TV is the first “worker-owned, post-capitalist” streaming service.
To facilitate this mission, the cooperative has a three-tier membership structure that distributes power and profits to participants:
- Worker members— i.e., full-time employees —serve on the board of directors and have full voting and economic rights in the cooperative. These members receive 70 percent of the year-end profit.
- Contract members—those who work frequently for Means TV but also for other companies—have economic rights in the cooperative and receive 20 percent of year-end profit.
- Royalty members—the filmmakers, distributors and crew members of original productions—have economic rights in the cooperative and receive 10 percent of the year-end profits.
Founder Nick Hayes told Fast Company that he is optimistic about being able to build an audience, particularly among younger generations. “We’re told as young people that we can access higher education and other things fundamental to success in this society, and many of us realize pretty quickly that isn’t the case,” he said. “That leads to a general resentment toward the status quo and the way things are. I think that’s why poll after poll shows that 50 percent of young people prefer socialism over capitalism.” And that was before COVID-19 cratered the economy.
The streaming service has a library of films and documentaries as well as weekly shows that cover news, working-class communities, gaming, and sports. Rather than competing with other emerging left media on YouTube and other platforms, it is partnering with creators to offer another platform and revenue source.
Content on the site, according to Fast Company, includes popular leftist podcasts such as Street Fight Radio and Trillbilly Workers Party, as well as YouTubers like Bad Empanada, The Serfs, and Step Back History.
Means TV officially launched the last week in February, with a series of live events in Detroit, New York, Seattle, and London. With in-person events cancelled for now, people are tuning in. Already, the service has more than 10,000 monthly subscribers. Sign up here.
Karen Kahn is a communications consultant and the editor of Employee Ownership News.