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Exclusive: Cheddar to launch in mixed reality on Magic Leap devices

Photo: Cheddar

Cheddar, the streaming news service for millennials, and Magic Leap, a mixed reality company, are teaming up to put Cheddar's two live news networks on Magic Leap One augmented reality devices.

Why it matters: These will be the first live news channels made available in mixed reality to all Magic Leap One owners.

The big picture: The move is part of a bigger trend of media companies pushing to try new forms of distribution.

  • Cheddar's lead mobile engineer, Stephanie Lo, who built the beta version of the service, says the technology could be a smart way in the future to combine second-screen video viewing.
  • "Think about how many people are watching TV while also browsing something at the same time. I think this gives us a platform to potentially marry the two."

Yes, but: The idea is meant to be a seed project that's being built far ahead of commercial applicability, mostly for buzz and experimentation. Magic Leap is only available now via a very pricey developer version, so the audience for the news channels will be small at first.

  • "In my three years running the company, I've always been focusing on generating revenue and getting carriage on big systems. I wanted to do one R&D project," says Cheddar CEO and founder Jon Steinberg.
  • "I think a media company like us needs to have one long-term bet. A lot of other media companies can only see ahead to the next quarter. I'm trying to think a few years away."

The details: Magic Leap is licensing Cheddar's live business and headline news networks for its augmented reality headsets. The live video streams will exist as news panels that can be placed anywhere in the user’s room. (See video above.)

  • Users will be able to pin a hovering live Cheddar news screen while performing other work or entertainment activities in the Magic Leap environment.
  • The content itself will be the same the channels show outside of the mixed reality environment for now, says Steinberg, but the company might experiment with creating custom content specifically for Magic Leap in the future. The companies are working to make broadcasts available both on-demand and live.

Between the lines: Cheddar and Magic Leap share an investor in AT&T. Both companies focus on the future of content distribution — Cheddar through live digital TV and Magic Leap through augmented and virtual reality.

For Cheddar, the business strategy has always been to build an extensive distribution network to make sure their content is consumed as widely as possible, but until now that has meant mostly two avenues:

  1. Authenticated feeds that people have to pay for (Cheddar's app or its channel on digital TV bundles like YouTube TV or Dish's Sling) .
  2. Free clips that can lure new subscribers on social media, on college campus TVs or at gas station pumps.

By the numbers: Steinberg says Cheddar will bring in about $30 million in top-line revenue this year and will be profitable by the end of next year. "We'll lose $4 million roughly and as of today, after acquisitions, we have $30 million in bank, with a vast majority of that being in cash."

“We are basically Tesla, and CNBC and CNN are Ford and GM. Yes, they ship more cars in a week than we ship in a year, but you know what? We’re running on electric power, have much better software and our car drives itself.”
Steinberg

What's next? Steinberg says he'd like to build a volumetric camera studio (a studio that can capture video in 3D for augmented or virtual reality), so that in the future, the company can add custom 3D interviews to a variety of augmented reality experiences on Magic Leap devices.