Why This Channel Went from 3 CEOs to 1 🔻

Watcher finds a new way to run its production studio

Good morning. Are you caught up on TikTok’s latest reality TV “show,” #UltimateWorldCruise? The day-to-day lives of passengers (and posters) on Royal Caribbean’s nine-month-long cruise ship voyage have become the fixation of landlocked TikTok users. Already, videos analyzing the potential overseas drama have passed 138+ million combined views.

Ex-BuzzFeed Creator Takes on Role as Production Studio CEO

Steven Lim (left) leads Watcher Entertainment as sole CEO, a role previously shared among Lim, Ryan Bergara (middle), and Shane Madej (right) / Watcher

Fans of the unscripted mystery and comedy YouTube channel Watcher have had one big question over the last few months: “Where is Steven?” The channel’s cofounder, Steven Lim, has been largely absent from videos after years as a regular character.

Last week, Watcher’s audience got their answer: He’s taken on the sole position of Watcher CEO.

Quick backstory: Watcher was founded by BuzzFeed alums Steven Lim, Ryan Bergara, and Shane Madej in 2019 and has amassed nearly 3 million subscribers and over 300 million views. Income sources include Patreon and sponsorships from brands like Rocket Money.

At the start, all three shared the role of CEO. Yet as their channel grew, they found that Bergara and Madej’s skills didn’t align with the management, marketing, and financial duties that come with being a CEO. But Lim’s did—as CEO, Lim now spends more time making executive decisions for their ~20 person team, freeing up Bergara and Madej to focus on creative work.

“Anyone who were to think that this company is moving on without [Lim], it’s quite the opposite—we’re succeeding because of him,” Bergara said in a recent video.

Lim says the change has come with highs and lows, including leading Watcher through staff changes and finding new office space.

  • “We had to figure out how this was going to be a business, and I was scared people would gossip and I held it in,” Lim said in a behind-the-scenes video. “I learned it’s not my job to protect how [staff] feel about Watcher, it's my job to give them all the facts so they can make a better evaluation about how they feel about their job.” 

The creator POV: Turning a creative idea into a business—especially with other people—requires trust. “This thing runs because we're committed to making it happen. The level of trust we’ve had to build over the years with each other has been immense, but because we’ve done things slowly and with the right foundation we’re in a much better place for it,” Lim said.

Inside the Reality TV ➡️ Podcast Host ➡️ Media Empire Pipeline

Former star of “The Bachelor” Nick Viall (left) recruits “Vanderpump Rules” regulars Dayna Kathan (second from right) and Katie Maloney (right) to his podcast network / Photography by Sarah Partain, Joey Maloney

Nick Viall turned his time as The Bachelor into an award-winning, interview-based podcast called The Viall Files. Now, he’s joining a growing list of audio creators turned media executives with the launch of a new podcast company called Envy Media, Viall announced Thursday.

How he got here: The Viall Files became a widely popular podcast during which Viall interviews celebrities and gives listeners relationship advice.

  • The show has gained 150 million downloads since its inception in 2019, and the Associated Press named it a Top 10 podcast that year.

With Envy, Viall plans to expand past his flagship podcast by producing other shows within his niche of pop culture and relationships…starting with fellow reality TV stars Katie Maloney and Dayna Kathan of Vanderpump Rules.

Zoom out: Viall appears to be taking a page out of the same playbook as Call Her Daddy host Alex Cooper—who launched a media company last year that produces podcasts from creators including Alix Earle—by investing in other talent that aligns with his brand.

For talent like Maloney and Kathan, signing with Envy means access to Envy’s new studio space, exclusive advertising partnerships, and an added layer of confidence in working with a peer. “His years of experience paired with his vision and tenacity is undeniable,” the duo told Variety.

TikTok Shop Hikes Platform’s Cut of Sales

TikTok Shop increases the cut it takes from sellers on the growing platform / Illustration by Moy Zhong

On Wednesday, TikTok Shop informed sellers that it will increase its commission on sales from 2% plus 30 cents per transaction to 8% in the U.S., The Information reported. FYI: Amazon’s cut is about 15%.

TL;DR: TikTok is taking a larger share from creators’ sales on its platform. The price hike comes after TikTok aggressively pursued merchants for its shopping services, even subsidizing sellers’ product discounts up to 50%.

Big picture: More than 5 million new U.S. customers purchased something via TikTok Shop during the Black Friday season in 2023—and after a year of prioritizing user growth, TikTok believes it can grow its U.S. ecommerce business to $17.5 billion in 2024, according to Bloomberg.

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The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: What does a TikTok moderator actually do? One shares their firsthand account in The Guardian, covering everything from scam videos to livestream monitoring.

  • Watch: ”This is not a travel vlog. This is a film about connection.” Explore the lives of a budding model, a young mother, and an adventurous hiker through the lens of travel creator Luke Korns as he spends a month meeting new people throughout several cities in China.

  • Listen: What lengths would you go to in order to find the person who scammed you? Journalist Justin Sayles tests his limits in The Wedding Scammer, a hilarious true crime podcast from The Ringer.

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