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Exclusive: The Chernin Group pours $50 million into MeatEater

Steven Rinella, host of MeatEater. Photo: MeatEater, Inc.

TCG, a venture affiliate of The Chernin Group that invests in media, entertainment, and tech businesses, has doubled down on its investment in MeatEater, the hunting brand that hit mainstream via its hit show on Netflix beginning in 2015.

Why it matters: Outdoor entertainment is a growing media category that TCG thinks is underserved, and can be monetized well through selling branded merchandise. "There's several billion dollars a year spent just from Americans in pursuit of their outdoor activities on commerce," says Mike Kerns, President of Digital at The Chernin Group.

  • Over the summer, TCG poured $50 million of additional capital into the franchise, of which it's a majority stakeholder. That money was used, in part, to make MeatEater's first acquisition. The company acquired First Lite over the summer, a technical apparel brand that it has partnered with for years.

Driving the news: Leading up to the launch of MeatEater's 8th season on Netflix this month, the brand is going all in on commerce. The majority of the revenue from the company at this point comes from selling stuff, not licensing its show to Netflix.

  • Whiskey: On Friday, MeatEater launched MeatEater Straight Bourbon Whiskey. According to Kevin Sloan, CEO of MeatEater, the company sold over 60% of its first batch of whiskey in its first three days of sales.
  • Cookbooks: The MeatEater Fish & Game Cookbook reached the #10 most-sold book in the nonfiction category on Amazon Charts and remained there for a week.
  • Apparel: According to Sloan, First Lite brought in more than $2 million in just 2 days after MeatEater ran its first promotion across its podcasts and digital channels.

Yes, but: The company still makes money from media and live events. Overall, Sloan says, revenue is up 300% year-over-year, due in part to the growth of the company's podcast, sponsorships, licensing and live events businesses.

  • MeatEater sold more than 10,000 live tickets last year.
  • It's launched two new YouTube shows on fishing and hunting, as well as five new podcasts.

The big picture: The outdoor/adventure content category seems small, but a farm-to-table health trend country-wide is pushing some of its content mainstream, especially on the food and beverage side.

  • "The Meat Eater brand and content rally cuts across the whole country," says Kerns. "The podcast performance for the brand is actually strongest in big DMAs like the Bay Area, Southern California, the Northwest as well as MidWest."

The bottom line: For Chernin, the investment follows a similar pattern of investing in niche content businesses that don't rely on advertising. The company took a majority stake last week in Food52, a home goods and food site, for $83 million.