Means TV, a worker-owned entertainment company, launched its streaming service Feb. 26. The cooperative aims to offer an alternative to the capitalist dominated entertainment structures and foster a culture in which fundamental change is possible.
On first glance, the Means TV website doesn’t look any different than other streaming services. Video thumbnails are organized beneath headings like “Live,” “Featured” and “Original.” There are shorts, comedy shows and cartoons. Once you start reading the titles, you realize Means TV is cut from a different cloth. Amazon wouldn’t have an original video called “Everyone Hates Landlords,” for example. Nor would Hulu, which is owned by Disney, produce an animated video about workers storming a boss’ office and ousting them after the boss crumples up a union contract.
Other content on the website includes documentaries such as “Radicalized,” a documentary about an anarchist collective that formed in Los Angeles after the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011; Spanish-language educational and informational content; sports commentary; weekly news; and video game streaming. The cooperative boasts work from prominent left-tubers and podcasters such as the hosts of Street Fight Radio and the Trillbillies.
Subscribers can stream Means TV on any platform that supports other streaming services, e.g. smartphone, computer, Roku or Fire TV. The service is available in the United States and Europe, and many of its videos are also available on its YouTube channel.
Means TV’s anti-capitalism is more than an act. As a cooperative, the workers own the business and take part in its financial success based upon their labor contribution. The Board of Directors is also made up of and elected by employees, according to Means TV’s website. 70% of all year-end profits are to be split among full-time employees. Those full-time employees are also those who may vote in cooperative elections and may sit on the Board. The remaining 30% of year-end profits will be split among contractors and royalty recipients.
Means TV’s structure contrasts with Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services which are publicly traded, meaning those with excess capital to invest into those companies split profits without having to perform labor or produce content for the service.
The streaming service, which was co-founded by Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes, is also organized in accordance with International Cooperative Alliance cooperative principles, according to Means TV’s site. Those principles include open and voluntary membership, autonomy and independence and concern for community.
Autonomy and independence are the means and end at Means TV. The collective was given an early boost by Sara June, creator of the original Nyan Cat video. June gifted the collective with her YouTube URL and, in March 2019 Means TV released its first video to the channel’s 125,000 subscribers.
Means TV’s DIY energy has sustained it since those early days. The cooperative has released over 100 videos, shorts and trailers and earned 40,000 more followers. It has attracted attention from Fox News, which claimed “some of [those involved] are even Communists!” To which Means TV wryly replied in a video “(it’s true).” It’s also been written about in Teen Vouge and boosted on twitter by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“We can’t ask working people to go revolt tomorrow,” co-creator Nick Hayes said to The Intercept. Means TV seeks to change that before long.