Exclusive: Red Ventures to close Cord Cutters News

The website launched in 2013 to cover what was then an emerging streaming video industry.
The South Carolina office complex of marketing firm Red Ventures is seen in an undated handout image. (Photo courtesy Red Ventures, Graphic by The Desk)

Marketing firm Red Ventures is winding down the streaming television-focused blog Cord Cutters News two years after it acquired the website, according to people familiar with the move.

The closure is part of a broader strategy of consolidation at the South Carolina-based marketing company that will see much of the Cord Cutters News staff migrate to other websites in the coming weeks.

Sources told The Desk on Monday that Cord Cutters News will remain online for the foreseeable future, but coverage of streaming video services and the companies behind them will shift to TVGuide.com, which Red Ventures acquired through its $500 million purchase of CNET Media Group in September 2020. Cord Cutters News stopped publishing updates on its social media profiles and its review-focused YouTube channel last month.

Cord Cutters News began in 2013 when founder Luke Bouma started a WordPress blog to cover what was then the fledgling streaming television industry. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Crackle and YouTube were among the few mainstreams streaming video services on the market; Dish Network’s Sling TV, which would prove to be the first real streaming alternate to cable television, was still a year away from launching.

One of Bouma’s first posts on Cord Cutters News would prove to be prescient: A write-up on a survey that showed nearly half of American television viewers planned to cancel their cable or satellite service. In the years since that post, Cord Cutters News found itself covering a new battle in the television industry — not just one focused on video services, but also platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which quickly surpassed traditional cable and satellite hardware as the dominant gadgets by which most viewers watch TV shows and movies.

Bouma generated revenue through a mixture of traditional digital ads and affiliate links. The latter caught the attention of Red Ventures, which bought the website in 2020. Financial terms were not disclosed, though a source familiar with the transaction said Bouma was paid “in the mid-5 figures to walk away from the site.” Bouma continued on as a consultant before ultimately leaving for other projects.

“[Red Ventures] is just as passionate about cord-cutting as all of you and excited to take the site to the next level in the coming years,” Bouma wrote in a note to readers. “The things you have always loved about Cord Cutters News – the breaking news, the great deals, our guides to saving money – aren’t going anywhere.”

Several months later, Red Ventures would capture the attention of the media industry when it agreed to spend $500 million buying CNET Media, which included TVGuide.com among its properties. What followed was a series of consolidation between brands and staffing that saw the end of some brands and pink slips given to redundant employees.

A source familiar with the company’s decision-making process said Cord Cutters News was seen as an attractive — and cheap —way to grab a platform that could quickly use affiliate marketing to target a growing pool of consumers: People disenfranchised with cable and satellite who wanted cheaper streaming options that were comparatively easier to purchase. The sudden explosion of streaming choices over the last three years only sparked their interest.

While Cord Cutters News was successful in tapping into that audience early on, it has faced significant challenges in the two years since Red Ventures acquired the site. The blog has not substantially increased its affiliate or advertising revenue since coming under the control of the marketing firm. A controversial website re-design drew criticism from its loyal readers; Red Ventures responded by shutting off the comments feature for its articles. Both moves caused its web traffic to plummet by half, one source said.

Increased competition from other websites, including the upstart marketing blog the Streamable, and an increased focus on streaming media by traditional entertainment publications like Variety, Deadline Hollywood and the Hollywood Reporter have further chipped away at Cord Cutters News’ lead.

Earlier this year, executives at Red Ventures made the decision to focus on TVGuide.com, which it felt was a stronger brand for video consumers.

“If you look at the metrics that count, TV Guide outshines Cord Cutters News in every way,” a source said. “On Facebook and Twitter each, TV Guide has over 1 million followers. Cord Cutters News doesn’t come anywhere close. Even Millennials who have never picked up a printed copy of TV Guide know what TV Guide is, so it makes a lot of sense that [Red Ventures would] focus on that site.”

Jessica Barnes, the former editor-in-chief of Cord Cutters News, and a handful of other writers will remain at Red Ventures as contributors to TVGuide.com. A handful of press releases will continue to be posted to Cord Cutters News under a generic byline, though those, too, will eventually stop.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and an associated photo caption said Red Ventures was headquartered in North Carolina. While the company does describe its campus as located in the Charlotte metropolitan area, the office complex is actually located in South Carolina.

Thanks for reading and supporting The Desk. If you have a question, comment or news tip, send a message by email or text, or connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Also, check out our new membership service The Desk: Pro Access for exclusive reporting, news scoops and in-depth analysis.