Jan 19, 2021 - Economy

The Daily Wire is profitable, and eyeing entertainment

Illustration of television with The Daily Wire logo on the screen

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Daily Wire, a conservative media brand known for its prolific Facebook presence and popular podcast "The Ben Shapiro show," is moving into entertainment, its CEO and co-founder Jeremy Boreing tells Axios.

Why it matters: The company, which is profitable and grossed $65 million in revenue last year, wants to differentiate itself from other conservative subscription media brands by focusing mostly on entertainment, rather than political commentary.

  • Boreing and co-founder Ben Shapiro debuted its first film last week, a school shooting thriller called "Run Hide Fight."
  • The premiere occurred during a "Daily Wire Backstage" virtual event and drew over 300,000 viewers across its site and YouTube, a company spokesperson says.
  • The Daily Wire recently acquired the exclusive rights to distribute the film in North America.

Between the lines: Boreing is an entertainment veteran who previously ran a secretive Hollywood group for conservatives called "Friends of Abe."

  • He said the film — which includes graphic violence and nudity — is a risk that's meant to take The Daily Wire's audience out of its comfort zone.
  • "We have to challenge what you (the audience) think it means to make art with a conservative view so that we can compete with Hollywood for entertainment dollars."
  • Boreing argues that most entertainment catered to conservatives is produced by elite Hollywood studios that need to appeal to conservatives — like shows about cops — but doesn't actually respect their values.

What's next: The Daily Wire has a scripted series in development, as well as another feature film. Boreing says it's in touch with several conservative producers about future projects.

  • "It's clear the entertainment industry is hostile to conservatives and there was an unserved market and no one knew how to reach," he says.
  • It's planning to launch a new weekly show with pro-Trump commentator Candace Owens that will also be released as a podcast.

The company is also making a big investment in technology to have its app be able to serve streaming video at scale.

  • Boreing notes that building out its own tech is important given the hostility he perceives tech and social giants as having toward conversations.
  • "As we grow, and our tech becomes more proprietary, we can provide additional infrastructure for conservatives on the internet."
  • Today, The Daily Wire's app is available for download on Apple TV and Roku if a subscriber wants to stream video, or in the Google and Apple app stores for mobile.

The big picture: This is a significant business model pivot for The Daily Wire.

  • The company launched six years ago with a business that was mostly ad-supported, and focused on podcasts and Facebook traffic.
  • The pivot to subscriptions means that the company will need to make longer-term upfront investments to fund content that will drive loyal subscribers.
  • "We're taking a huge risk," Boreing told Axios. "The content is expensive. If the audience shows up for us, we'll keep doing it ... You'll know we're succeeding if we're able to keep doing it."

Today, the company employs 115 full-time employees. Boreing says it's been cash-flow positive since its 14th month in existence.

  • The company was initially funded by Republican fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, but has since used its profits to fuel the company's growth.
  • "We've doubled our revenue in three of the five full years we've been in operation."

The bottom line: The Daily Wire isn't new to criticism, but the business model pivot will force it to be accountable for the actions of third-party content creators.

  • "Run Hide Fight," for example, was produced by Texas filmmaker Dallas Sonnier, whose production company previously faced #MeToo issues.
  • After internal backlash at POLITICO over Shapiro guest writing the Playbook newsletter, Boreing sent the POLITICO newsroom 200 of its "Leftist Tears" tumblers, one of its most popular pieces of merchandise.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to change “netted” to “grossed” in the second paragraph.

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