The Founders of Means TV on Their Post-Capitalist Streaming Service

The revolution will not be televised — but it just might be binge-watched
Means TV
Naomi Burton (left) and Nick Hayes // Portrait courtesy of Means TV, collage imagery courtesy of IStock

Next time you cuddle up on the couch for a Netflix binge, pause to consider the entertainment-industrial complex that spawned your favorite show. Where did the money come from, and whose pockets are being lined with your subscription dollars? If the answers trouble you, you might fall within the target audience of Means TV, a self-described post-capitalist streaming service that’s just getting off the ground.

The brainchild of Detroit couple Naomi Burton, 29, and Nick Hayes, 22, worker-owned Means TV aims to produce programming for the segment of the population that’s picking up what democratic socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are laying down. And that audience may be bigger than you’d think: A May 2019 Harris poll found four in 10 Americans support some form of socialism. That number climbs to 55% among women 18 to 54 years old.

The fledgling service will be available on a variety of platforms for $10 a month, boasting an initial lineup consisting of four weekly live shows covering news, culture, gaming, and sports, along with a library of feature films and shorts, and additional content produced by influential lefty YouTubers.

Burton and Hayes first gained notoriety in 2019 as the creators of a viral campaign ad widely credited for giving a huge boost to Ocasio-Cortez’s underdog congressional bid. Now the couple has an even more audacious goal in mind — to, as Hayes put it to Teen Vogue, “build solidarity through entertainment” and ultimately foster a working-class revolt.  

We caught up with Burton and Hayes a few weeks before their Feb. 26 launch to ask what’s so terrible about capitalism, how operating in Detroit influences their thinking, and what the heck they watch when they aren’t busy fighting The Man.

Hour Detroit: So, what’s your beef with capitalism?

Nick Hayes: You know, I was just in Washington, D.C., with Kooper Caraway, the youngest labor leader in the country. He’s the president of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO, and he was talking about capitalism. He was saying that as young people, we’ve really seen the highs of what capitalism has to offer and the lows of what capitalism has to offer. And we’re just not impressed. I think that captures why 51% of people under 30 prefer socialism to capitalism. … When I go around socialist countries, there aren’t people sleeping on the street, but when I go around downtown Detroit, there are definitely people all over sleeping on the streets.

Naomi Burton: I think it’s also just that we can come up with really great ways to run a society. I don’t think we need to give up at capitalism and say that’s it. We can be more creative than this.

What exactly does post-capitalist programming look like? Is it just one big, long Bernie Sanders campaign speech? 

Hayes: Post-capitalist entertainment is just entertainment that’s created without the extracting, corrosive, and corruptive effects of capital. Instead of entertainment that’s produced with money from venture capital firms that are invested in bombs and wars, it’s produced cooperatively, and it’s centering stories of working-class people that aren’t heard in the media today. Our entertainment basically just looks like stuff that we think is more entertaining. I mean, we don’t want to be preached to. We don’t want to necessarily watch the news or be educated all the time, but we don’t want stuff that’s glorifying imperialism or conquest abroad, either. 

How does operating out of Detroit influence you?

Hayes: Living in Detroit, we’re living in the heart of capitalism’s failures — of capitalism’s promises and its failures, and its failing of people. It’s just a constant reminder. You can’t drive around the area where we live in Detroit and not see the effects of greed and the effects of corruption and the effects of an economic system that’s just all about corporations making as much money as they can while our quality of life suffers. 

You can’t always be fighting the good fight. What do you watch when you’re not watching your own programs? 

Hayes: The Simpsons! Definitely The Simpsons. Or Seinfeld reruns.

­­Burton: Yes! Seinfeld. … Our goal is to be entertaining. We don’t want people to be watching Means TV as a charity project. Our whole goal is to make this something that’s fun to watch — and interesting. We understand that people are, of course, going to want to watch …

Hayes: The Simpsons! Look, I think if we can be a place where 60%, 70%, whatever — if a growing percent of their viewing time is spent, we think that the kind of ideas and questions that will be swirling around in their heads will be cool and interesting. I just know from our experience, just over the past three or four months watching our own stuff, all of the movies stick in my head, and I’m thinking about them for days afterward — because they’re interesting.