MediaDeals – Fri, March 30, 2018

Have a great Friday, everyone. Enjoy your weekends (and Happy Easter and/or Passover to those who celebrate). Here’s the final round-up of the week…

Analytics tech company Chartbeat finds that Google Chrome’s “Articles for You” (the suggested news articles when you open a new tab in the browser) has exploded as a traffic source for publishers. Articles for You referrals to publishers using Chartbeat jumped 2,100% in 2017 from 15M visits per month to 341M visits per month. That’s 2/3rd the amount of traffic that Twitter drives to those publishers. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Douyin, the social video app in China that’s owned by Bytedance (also parent of the Toutiao news aggregation app), has launched an integration with e-commerce giant Alibaba. It creates an e-commerce portal for Douyin channels with over 1M followers to monetize their audience. (link)
  • Hulu and the CW channel have agreed to include a live stream of CW programming in “Hulu with Live TV”, the OTT platform’s $39.99/month subscription for watching live TV online. (link)
  • iQiyi, the Chinese SVOD platform owned by Baidu, raised $2.25B in its IPO yesterday at a $12.7B valuation but had a disappointing initial day of trading, closing down 14% ($15.55). (link)
  • Netflix is considering an offer to acquire EuropaCorp, the Paris-based production company of Luc Besson with whom it has been negotiating a multi-picture producing deal. EuropaCorp is a respected firm with a valuable library but has been struggling with €230M in debt, prompting interest from potential investors/acquirers. (link)
  • Zattoo, the OTT platform to watching live TV online in Germany, will now offer channels of ProSiebenSat.1 to subscribers. The subscription price remains €9.99/month. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Snap is laying off 100 employees from its sales team. It’s the third round of recent layoffs. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Goop, the NYC-based healthy living media brand started by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, raised a $50M Series C from Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA, and Felix Capital at a $250M valuation. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Instrumental, a London-based startup whose TalentAI platform identifies rising music talent for record label A&R teams, raised $4M from Blenheim Chalcot and Bill Roedy. (link)
    • Its competitor Sodatone was just acquired by Warner Music Group.
  • Wonderery, a Los Angeles-based podcast network, raised a $5M Series A led by Greycroft Partners with Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Advancit Capital, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI), and Fox Networks Group. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Kobalt Music Group hit $321M in revenue (+24% yoy) during its FY17 (which ended last June), according to a leak. It had gross profit of $42.5M (+39%) and a $24M operating loss. Headcount also grew 30% to 448. (link)
      • Kobalt recently said it expects close to $500M in FY18 revenue.
    • TuneIn, the internet radio company (that focuses more on live sports than music), announced that its premium subscription is now available on Amazon‘s Alexa ecosystem and its at a massive discount to the normal subscription: Alexa owners will pay only $2.99/mo (with Prime) or $3.99/mo instead of $9.99/mo. (link)

Telecom

  • Sky Plc.‘s Sky Italia division announced a long-term agreement with Open Fiber in Italy, enabling it to launch a broadband service in 2019 (its currently only a satellite TV provider in Italy). The company already has a set-top box in the UK, Sky Q. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • SpaceX gained FCC approval for its proposed 4,425-satellite internet constellation called Starlink. (link)

MediaDeals – Thu, March 29, 2018

Happy Thursday, media friends.

Facebook announced a major change to its advertising offerings, saying it will discontinue Partner Categories, which let advertisers tap into data about users from third-party brokers like Experian. As a result, advertisers on Facebook will only be able to target ads based on the combination of data they bring to the table and data from Facebook itself. (link)

If you’re trying to keep track of all the popular video sharing apps in China and who owns each, the South China Morning Post has a helpful list. (link)

The EU has said that UK-based broadcasters trying to figure out the legal framework for continuing to broadcast into the EU post-Brexit should look to a 1989 agreement…one which doesn’t cover major questions like streaming video online. (link)

Lagardère Group subsidiary Lagardère Sports Germany has partnered with advertising company ADI to roll out a new augmented reality technology that layers digital ads over the perimeter advertising within football stadiums, so the ads that online and TV viewers see along the sidelines of football matches are actually different from the ads in the stadium. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings, which is owned by Dalian Wanda Group, has hired Citi to prepare for an IPO of its subsidiary Odeoncinemas group based in the UK. It noted that European markets value cinema chains at a much higher EBITDA multiple that US investors. (link)
  • Bilibili, the Chinese video sharing platform focused on anime and gaming characters, went public on the Nasdaq yesterday, raising $483M at a $3.2B valuation by pricing at $11.50/share. It dropped to $9.62 before closing its first day at $11.24. (link)
  • iQiyi begins trading today on Nasdaq under the ticker IQ. It’s selling 125M shares at $18, raising $2.25B to fuel growth of its 50M-subscriber video streaming platform that’s often referred to as “the Netflix of China”. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • MGM Holdings released FY17 earnings yesterday while also refusing to take questions about the recent ouster of its CEO. The Hollywood studio had $1.3B in revenue (+10% yoy) and $422M in adjusted EBITDA (+5%). (link)
    • Netflix added Susan Rice, the former US National Security Advisor to President Obama, to its board of directors. (link)
    • Rakuten TV, the Barcelona-based TVOD service owned by Japanese tech conglomerate Rakuten, is preparing to expand a new SVOD offering that it has been testing in Spain to all 12 of its European markets. (link)

News/Publishing

  • New Media Investment Group (aka GateHouse Media) is acquiring the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News, plus various companion websites, from Cox Media Group for $49M. (link)
  • Most Kwai Chung, the Hong Kong-based media company that owns satirical magazine 100Most and a youth culture website, priced its IPO yesterday at HK$1.20 but opened at HK$8.40 and peaked at HK$11.76. The poorly-priced fundraise was the most oversubscribed IPO in Hong Kong history. The company’s market cap is now around $220M. (link)

Gaming and AR/VR

  • Ubiquity6, an AR startup focused on persistence and object recognition, raised a $10.5M Series A led by Index Ventures with First Round Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Gradient Ventures (Google), A+E, and Jeff Katzenberg’s WndrCo. (link)
  • StarVR Corporation, the maker of VR entertainment systems for cinemas and other businesses, has applied for approval for an IPO in Taiwan. The firm, which is majority-owned by Taiwanese hardware maker Acer with Swedish games developer Starbreeze as a minority owner, hopes to raise $16.4M. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Activision Blizzard has lost 10% of its market cap since March 12, largely tied to concerns that the massively popular Fortnite game by Epic Games will eat into the popularity of Call of Duty and other Activision games. (link)
    • Since Apple released its ARKit in September for developers to build augmented reality apps on iOS, 13M such apps have been downloaded (half of them games). Top AR apps include AR Dragon, LEGO AR Studio, and IKEA Place. (link)
    • Sony cut the price of the PlaystationVR headset by $100 to $299, making it substantially cheaper than the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Warner Music Group acquired Sodatone, a startup founded in Toronto in 2016 that leverages streaming, social media, and touring data to identify high-potential new artists for record label A&R teams to sign. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Universal Music Group fired Charlie Walk, the well-known president of Republic Records, following an investigation into sexual harassment claims. (link)
    • Maverick, the cornerstone of Live Nation’s artist management division, announced Meredith Gardner as its new SVP of Digital. She has been SVP of Digital Marketing and Product at Capitol Music. (link)
    • TuneIn, the internet radio app focused on live sports, podcasts, talk shows, and other content, has announced Juliette Morris as its first CMO. Morris has been a marketing executive at NBU. (link)
    • Pandora is adding curated playlists to its music streaming offerings, in a move to compete with Spotify’s popular playlists. (link)
    • Soundcloud added a “scheduled release” feature so artists can time the release of a track in advance. (link)

Telecom

  • Good to know:
    • Media Broadcast‘s satellite TV service Freenet TV is now operational in Germany. After a 3-month free trial, Germans can watch HD channels from RTL Group, ProSiebenSat.1, Eurosport, etc. for €5.75 per month. The company is targeting 1.2M subscribers by the end of 2018. (link)

MediaDeals – Wed, March 28, 2018

Happy Wednesday, media friends.

Raine Group, the media-focused merchant bank affiliated with Endeavor, is targeting $1B in raising its third TMT growth fund. (link)

A study at Princeton found that only 10% of posts by influencers on Youtube and Pinterest that have affiliate links to products disclose that. And most of those that do don’t have disclosures that fit FTC guidelines. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Arraiy, a startup creating AI for special effects in the film/TV industry, raised a $10M Series A led by Lux Capital and Softbank Ventures. (link)
  • 24i Media, a Netherlands-based developer of streaming applications for large media companies, has acquired Vigour, a multi-screen video platform. (link)
  • Crypt TV, a media startup focused on producing digital-first horror content, raised a $6.2 Series A from Blumhouse Productions, Lerer Hippeau, NBCUniversal, and Advancit Capital. (link)
  • Scooter Braun and David Maisel (founding chairman of Marvel) have partnered to launch Mythos Studios, an LA-based production studio focused on creating new film franchises. Mythos has bought a 50% stake in Aspen Comics and is leveraging its IP in the effort. (link)
  • Moviepass has partnered with Landmark Theatres, enabling Moviepass users to reserve tickets and seats for films at Landmark locations from the app. It’s the first time the all-you-can-watch cinema subscription service has partnered with one specific exhibitor on a product offering. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Modern Times Group named Filippa Wallestam as CEO of Modern Times Group Sweden. (link)
    • Turner announced that Bleacher Report Live (aka B/R Live), its live sports streaming platform, will launch in April 7th and operate on a pay-per-game viewing model with a subscription option added later. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Seven West Media has sold its 50% stake in Yahoo7 to joint venture partner Oath. Yahoo7 was launched in 2006 as a 50/50 joint venture between Seven West Media and Yahoo! to offer email and digital media content in the Australia/NZ region. Most of Yahoo7’s executive team is leaving as part of the takeover. A price wasn’t disclosed, but Seven West Media valued its stake at $129M last year in government forms. (link)
  • Bauer Media Group, the Hamburg-based media conglomerate, and NYC-based video startup Wochit are expanding their partnership to the US, UK, Australia, and NZ after a year of collaborating on rapid production of online videos for Bauer Xcel publishing properties in Germany. (link)
    • Wochit is backed by Prosieben, Greycroft, Redpoint, Cedar Fund, Singapore Press Holdings’ Media Fund, and London-based PA Group.
  • News Corp is shopping its Australia/NZ regional publishing division, having hired Citi’s banking team to explore a potential sale. TPG and Sydney-based PE firm Anchorage Capital have both been rumored to have an interest in buying the region’s publishing assets from News Corp and/or Fairfax Media. (link)
    • News Corp’s Australian publishing assets hold a lot of emotional value to the Murdochs, as the origin of Rupert’s empire (and later part of the ANZ division that Lachlan ran to prove himself as a young heir-apparent).
  • Good to know:
    • Bloomberg is expanding its TicToc news service – live video streams over Twitter – to Asia, with 12 staff at its Hong Kong bureau. The 3-month-old venture has a following of 171,000 with 750,000 daily viewers and 8-figures in sponsorship bookings, according to global head of digital M. Scott Havens. (link)
    • Bonnier Group, the Stockholm-based media conglomerate, is laying off half its staff at its Australian book publishing division. (link)
    • BuzzFeed named Melinda Lee, former SVP of video at Meredith Corp, as the Chief Content Officer of the new BuzzFeed Media Brands division that’s comprised of lifestyle publications Tasty, Nifty, Goodful, As/Is, and Playful. (link)

Gaming and AR/VR

  • Good to know:
    • ESL, the esports organizer owned by Modern Times Group (MTG), announced attendance at its annual Katowice competitions in Poland. It had 169,000 in-person attendees over two weekends (down from 173,000 last year) plus 2.2M online viewers (+80% yoy). (link)
      • MTG’s recent announcement that its spinning its Nordic entertainment and studio operations out as their own company will leave MTG as a purer esports and gaming firm (one of the few publicly-traded ones).
    • Valve’s total Steam revenue from paid game sales was around $4.3B in 2017, according to Steam Spy. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • SoundMachine and Napster have partnered to launch a $31.95/month music streaming service for businesses called “Premium Business powered by Napster”. It offers both AI- and human-curated playlists (as well as access to Napster’s library) so companies can select in-store music that fits their brand. (link)
    • Competitors in the streaming-for-business landscape include Soundtrack Your Brand (which spun out of Spotify and remains affiliated), Jamendo, Pandora for Business, Rockbot, and Jukeboxy.
  • Good to know:
    • LL Cool J is launching a channel on SiriusXM for old-school hip-hop. (link)

Digital Learning

  • Good to know:
    • Apple announced new pricing ($299) and new software tools for its iPad tablet to be used in schools. It’s a growing initiative to compete in the education IT space where Google has dominated with its low-cost Chromebook and Google for Education offerings. (link)

Telecom

  • Good to know:
    • Comcast‘s chief product officer Chris Satchell is stepping down. The company said it doesn’t plan to fill the CPO role, however. (link)
    • Italian regulators are investigating Vivendi‘s influence over Telecom Italia. (link)

MediaDeals – Tue, March 27, 2018

Happy Tuesday, media friends.

Bertelsmann – the Germany-based mass media conglomerate operating across media, education, and services – announced its FY17 performance today, hitting €17.2B (+1.4% yoy) in revenue with €2.6B in EBITDA (+2.7%) and €1.2B in profits. See the breakouts for its major media divisions in the sections below. (link)

Overall, 46% of revenue is now attributed to digital activities and 27% comes from outside Europe.

In its corporate venture activities, it made 29 new Investments in China through Bertelsmann Asia Investments, and 11 new investments in the US/Europe by BDMI. Its India and Brazil investment arms each made new education investments last year.

Lerer Hippeau Ventures, the NYC-based venture firm with a strong media focus, is taking custody of a $125M fund raised by Binary Capital. Binary was a consumer internet-focused firm that collapsed last year amid sexual harassment allegations against one of the two General Partners. (link)

DishTV executive Warren Schlichtung testified yesterday that the AT&T/Time Warner merger would hurt industry innovation by inhibiting skinny bundles. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Endeavor (aka WME-IMG) has acquired NeuLion, a company that sells its video streaming technology to major sports leagues and other events companies, for $250M. (link)
  • Inke, the Beijing-based live-streaming app that lets viewers send virtual gifts to the host, filed for an IPO in Hong Kong. It had $622M in FY17 revenue and a $126M net profit, based on 25M MAUs.
  • Good to know:
    • Bertelsmann 2017 review: RTL Group, the European TV conglomerate, had €6.4B in revenue (+2.2%), €1.5B in EBITDA (+5.2%).
      • While RTL Deutschland and Groupe M6 (France) had growth driven by TV ads, RTL Nederland saw a drop. Freemantle saw a drop in revenue but improved EBITDA margins. Freemantle’s “American Gods” show was a hit on Starz and Amazon Prime Video.
      • In digital ads, RTL bought SpotX and is integrating it with Smartclip. In VR, it took a minority stake in Israeli startup Inception.
    • Facebook named former Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton as its “director of global live sports partnerships and programming” yesterday. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Bustle Digital Group acquired The Zoe Report, a luxury fashion blog launched in 2009 by Rachel Zoe. (link)
  • IAC hired Allen & Co. to explore a sale of Dictionary.com. (link)
  • Hubert Burda Media‘s Burda Principal Investments led a €16M ($19.8M) Series A for Nebenan, a neighborhood-based social networking platform in Germany. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Bertelsmann 2017 review: Gruner + Jahr, the magazine publishing conglomerate, had €1.5B in revenue (-4.2%) due to sale of assets in Spain and Austria, but €145M in EBITDA (+6.2%). That’s 9.6% margin.
      • German digital publishing revenues were the growth spot.
    • Bertelsmann 2017 review: Penguin Random House, the book publishing giant, had €3.4B in revenue (-0%), €521M in EBITDA (-2.9%)
      • Bertelsmann bought a further 22% stake from Pearson Plc, giving it 75% of the equity.
      • Print sales were flat, e-books declined, but audiobooks grew.
      • They had 461 NYT bestsellers.

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Calm, a subscription app with audio content for meditation and easing anxiety, is raising ~$25 from Insight Venture Partners at a ~$250M valuation. (link)
    • Calm has been around since 2012, only raising $1.5M in VC but reaching $40M in revenue last year.
  • Good to know:
    • Bertelsmann 2017 review: BMG, like other major labels seeing a huge uptick in streaming music income, had a great year. It took in €507M ($573M) in YF17 revenue (+21.8% yoy) and €104M ($118M) in EBITDA (+9.5%)…a 20% margin.
      • BMG bought country music label BBR last year.
      • They also developed the myBMG app for artists and songwriters to track their royalties.

Digital Learning

  • Good to know:
    • Bertelsmann 2017 review: Bertelsmann Education Grouphad €189M in revenue (+32.6%), with €3M in EBITDA.
      • Relias, the healthcare education platform, had over 6,500 institutions as customers, with 32.8M course completions by their employees.

Telecom

  • Providence Equity sold its stake in Indonesian telecom infrastructure firm KIN (PT Komet Infra Nusantara) to tower operator Protelindo(Profesional Telekomunikasi Indonesia). (link)

MediaDeals – Mon, March 26, 2018

Happy Monday, media friends. It’s a very quiet start to the week…

I was curious to better understand the demographics of esports fans in the US. Here’s what I found over the weekend:

  • 62% male, 38% female.
  • Fairly high-income: 43% have household income over $75k and 31% have household income over $90k.
  • 49% said they spend most of their free time on esports activities. That number jumps with higher-income fans (67% of those with household income $100k+).
  • 66% watch live streams of competitions.
  • 60% are willing to travel to see an esports event.
  • 2/3 say they’d made new friends or acquaintances through esports.
  • The avg time spent playing video games is 8 hours per week. Avg time spent watching TV is just 4 hours.

Film/TV/Video

  • Google and the NBA agreed to a deal making Youtube TV the presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals, WNBA, and NBA G in a multi-year deal. Earlier this month, NBA TV was added to Youtube TV’s $40/month bundle of OTT channels. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • A24 co-founder John Hodges is leaving the company, which was launched in 2012 and quickly established itself as a top indie film producer. (link)
    • “Black Panther” surpassed The Avengers as the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time in the US box office, at $631M. (link)
    • Fullscreen hired Mary Murcko as SVP of Partnerships and Revenue. (link)
    • HQ, the popular new trivia show that streams on HQ’s mobile app, is adding Warner Bros and Nike as its first advertisers. Part of the check they each write is going toward the winning pool for viewers who get all trivia questions right. (link)
    • Miramax named Robert Osher as COO & General Counsel. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Axel Springer is investing £125M ($178M) in Purplebricks, the British real estate listings platform launched in 2012, for 11.5% ownership. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • The BBC opened its Lagos, Nigeria bureau and employing 100 staff with more expected to join. (link)

Gaming and AR/VR

  • Snap Inc acquired PlayCanvas, a British startup whose open source technology enables developers to create games and VR experiences that operate just on Facebook or on an internet browser. (link)
  • Team17, the UK-based video games studio behind the Worms franchise, is rumored to be filing for a £200M ($285M) IPO on the London Stock Exchange. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Reliance Industries, the holding company behind India’s Reliance Jio telecom (168M subscribers), acquired majority-ownership of music streaming startup Saavn for $104M in cash plus undisclosed stock and is combining it with its existing JioMusic service. Reliance is also investing $100M into the combined entity at a $1B valuation. (link)
    • Saavn investors include Tiger Global Management, Liberty Media, and Bertelsmann.
  • eOne acquired live entertainment production company Round Room Entertainment. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Taihe Music Group, the largest Chinese music provider (with 9 labels) and a Baidu subsidiary, named Timothy Xu as its new CEO. Xu was previously head of Greater China for Sony Music. (link)
    • Spotify‘s FY18 forecast ahead of next weeks IPO: $6.6B in revenue (+30%), 96M subscribers (+36%), gross margins reaching 25% (from 21%), and a $406M net loss (including $50M in IPO costs). (link)

Telecom

  • Elliott Management, the activist hedge fund that bought a 5.74% stake in Telecom Italia, issued a statement criticizing Vivendi‘s move last week to remove its 8 appointees to the Telecom Italia board. This will require shareholders to vote on an entirely new board at their May 4 meeting, setting the stage for a bigger standoff then. (link)
    • Vivendi and Elliott will each propose a new slate of 10+ directors. Whichever proposal gets more votes will be implemented for 2/3rds of board seats.
  • Liberty Global abandoned its acquisition of Polish cable operator Multimedia Polska, which has been under regulatory review since October 2016. (link)
  • CVC and Providence Equity are both believed to be considering bids to acquire Daisy, a UK telecom business, for around $1.4B. (link)

MediaDeals – Fri, March 23, 2018

Happy Friday, media friends. Thanks for all the “get well” wishes yesterday…I’m starting to feel better this morning.

Per my criticism on Wednesday of “Subscribe with Google”…the single-login consortium being formed in Germany by RTL Group and ProSiebenSat.1 now has a name and formal organization. It’s called the European netID Foundation and the login that consumers will use is called “netID”. (link)

Company founding as entertainment…Wednesday night, Dave Morin – who founded and sold the social media app Path – tweeted that he was considering launching a re-envisioned Path. Within hours, former Path staff signed on to join, VCs asked where to wire money to, and Dave changed from saying it’s an idea to saying it’s happening (and that it’d likely be subscription-based). It all played out publicly on Twitter. (link)

Hey, you didn’t pay for that!…the 2017 MUSO Global Piracy Report says piracy of TV, music, and film is more popular than ever with 191 Billion visits to pirating sites over last year. (link)…But a different survey by Edgeware of 4,000 people across the US, UK, and Hong Kong found that nearly half of those who consume pirated content would not do so if the content had forensic watermarks. (link)

2017 music industry review…paid subscriptions to music streaming platforms grew 63% yoy in 2017 in the US, driving 17% overall growth in the domestic music industry to $8.7B. Ad-supported streaming was up 35%. Digital downloads dropped 25%. (link)

Tencent released FY17 earnings on Wednesday…$36.4B in revenue (+56$ yoy), with $13.8B in operating income (+61%) and a 38% operating margin (+1%). (link)

Speaking of Tencent…Naspers, the South African media and investments conglomerate, just sold 150M shares in Tencent for $9.8B, taking some cash off the table to use in other operations. Naspers made a fateful $31M investment in Tencent in 2001, with the remaining position still worth $158B (33% ownership). (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Demiroren Holding, a Turkish conglomerate close with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, acquired Dogan Media Group for $1.2B. Dogan is a major newspaper and TV company in Turkey (incl. CNN Turkey) that has been critical of Ergodan in the past. (link)
  • Entertainment Studios Inc, the TV production company owned by comedian Byron Allen, acquired The Weather Channel from ownersComcast, Blackstone Group, and Bain Capital for $300M. They bought it for $3.5B in 2008. (link)
  • Network Entertainment, the Vancouver-based documentary studio, is launching a joint venture to produce TV and film content with fashion brand John Varvatos, which has always closely aligned itself with rock music and began expanding into media last year through a record label imprint under Big Machine Label Group. (link)
  • France Télévisions is pausing its effort to launch its own SVOD platform as it negotiates with TF1M6, and Orange to join forces in launching a “French Hulu” with both free and subscriber-only content. (link)
  • Voice of China is forming as the merger of China’s state-owned television network, China Central Television (CCTV), and state-owned radio networks, China Radio International and China National Radio. (link)
    • A government spokesperson said the aim of the move is to “improve public opinion” which is what a great PR team calls government propaganda.
  • Good to Know:
    • Modern Times Group (MTG), the Swedish entertainment conglomerate, is splitting in two, with Nordic Entertainment, MTG Studios, and Splay Networks forming a new company, Nordic Entertainment Group, that will trade on Nasdaq Stockholm. (link)
      • You’ll recall MTG agreed to sell those assets to Danish telecom TDC Group for $2.5B in February but the deal fell apart as TDC shareholders disliked it and the drop in TDC share price sparked a takeover.
    • Molotov, the popular OTT platform in France that lets its 5M subscribers watch and record live streams of television and catch up on missed shows, is rolling out across the EU following the EU Commission’s ruling on Feb. 27 that member states can’t block websites from other member states. (link)
      • EU states have a 9-month grace period to comply with the new regulation. Expect this to be a big boom for OTT platforms who have had to deal with content restrictions in every single country, inhibiting their ability to scale as fast as platforms in the US, China, and elsewhere.
    • Knippr, the OTT platform launched in 2016 by T-Mobile Netherlands, is shutting down. (link)
    • Youtube is banning videos related to guns. (link)

News/Publishing

  • New York Media, which owns New York Magazine, acquired comedy site Splitsider from The Awl Network and will merge it into its Vulture brand. Having shut down two of its four media properties in January, The Awl Network is now left solely with personal finance site Billfold. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Meredith updated its project layoffs stemming from the Time Inc. acquisition to 1,200 jobs over the next 10 months. (link)

Gaming and AR/VR

  • GOSU Data Lab, a Lithuanian startup whose Gosu.ai product is an AI coach for esports players, raised a $1.8M Seed round led by Runa Capital with Ventech and Systema. The company raised $420k previously and is competing with Mobalytics, Dojomadness, Moremmr, and Visor (which presented Monday at YC demo day). (link)
  • HTC has partnered with IGT, a multi-national vendor of slot machines and other casino equipment, to introduce VR experiences into casinos where players compete to win money. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Tencent is launched its mobile Battlegrounds game in the US, where it’s already ranked 2nd among games in the app store. The game tops the charts in 14 countries. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Shamrock Capital is looking to sell INgrooves, the digital music distribution company founded in 2002, for $100M. (link)
  • ICM Partners, the major Hollywood talent agency, and Canadian comedian Howie Mandel (a client) have acquired Just for Laughs, a comedy festival, events, and TV production venture out of Montreal. (link)
  • 8Tracks, the internet radio app, and Spotify are partnering for an integration where 8Tracks users can import songs and playlists they like directly to Spotify. (link)
  • Live Nation signed a deal with real estate developer Howard Hughes Corp to be the exclusive promoter for Pier 17, a new 3,400-capacity rooftop venue in NYC launching in August. (link)
  • Amper Music, an “AI composer, performer, and producer” of music, raised a $4M Seed led by Horizons Ventures with participation from Advancit, Two Sigma, Foundry Group, and Kiwi Venture Partners. (link)
  • Good to Know:
    • CTS Eventim, the German ticketing and live events powerhouse with 3,000 employees, reported €1B ($1.28B) in FY17 revenue (+25% yoy) and €205M ($252M) in EBITDA (+5.3%). (link)
      • Major growth came from a 43% increase in live events revenue driven by M&A and the launch of the New Horizons festival. Live events now contribute 61% of revenue.
      • Ticketing revenue was up 5% in part due to expansion in Scandinavia and Brazil. Gross margins on ticketing are 43%.
    • Cymbal, the “Instagram for music” startup seed funded by General Catalyst and Vaizra Ventures, is shutting down. (link)
    • Youtube‘s Lyor Cohen said the platform will increase ads targeted at users who listen to a lot of music in order to “frustrate” them into converting to paid subscriptions. Youtube’s PR team quickly sought to downplay that. (link)
    • Apple‘s Jimmy Iovine will step back from day-to-day operations into a consulting role starting in August. (link)
    • Def Jam promoted Nicki Farag and Noah Sheer to EVP titles and Keith Rothschild to SVP Promotions.

Digital Learning

  • Sunlands Online Education Group, the Chinese provider of online courses for post-secondary learning that has over 400,000 students, starts trading on the NYSE today. It raised $150M by pricing its IPO at $11.50/share. The stock is up 15% currently. (link)

Telecom

  • Telecom Italia announced that 8 board members will resign, including the Chairman (who is also CEO of Vivendi) and others affiliated with Vivendi. It’s a big win for Elliott Management, the activist hedge fund led by Paul Singer which recently took a 5.75% stake in the company and demanded changes to strategy and board leadership after 3 years of decline since Vivendi took the reigns. (link)
    • Elliott was preparing for a fight for votes to occur at the company’s April 24 shareholder meeting but Vivendi, which owns a board-controlling 24% stake, has chosen to retreat. The shareholder meeting has been delayed to May 4 now.

MediaDeals – Wed, March 21, 2018

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Subscribe with Google” is launching in partnership with major news publishers around the world, letting consumers log-in and pay for / manage subscriptions to news sites with their Google account rather than signing up directly with the publisher. Google will prioritize content from publishers you subscribe to in your search results.

It is a rational move to reduce the friction involved in subscribing and provide more data to help publishers understand their audience. But the main beneficiary here is Google, which now gets to collect that much more data on internet users and their spendings habits and will make publishers further dependent on the search giant.

The smarter long-term move for media companies would be to create joint ventures for single sign-on across a long list of partners (like an airline alliance). This is already happening in Germany (link), led by television conglomerates RTL Group and ProSiebenSat.1.

Given the surge in popular concern about the big tech giants in the US and how they’re using our data, now would have been prime timing for publishers to pull off such a move. It’d certainly be difficult and filled with politics, but it’d be much healthier in the long-term for an organization owned by the media companies to decide what data is collected and who gets access to it.

Media startups…who pitched at Day 2 of YC Demo Day:

  • Arrow – Instagram for AR
  • BloomJoy – Associated Press for lifestyle content
  • Jido Maps – API for persistent AR
  • Mirror AI – turn selfies into emojis
  • PlayersLounge – make money playing esports
  • The Podcast App – podcast streaming app
  • Sketchbox – Photoshop in VR to create AR/VR experiences
  • Substack – subscription publishing platform for paid newsletters
  • Swayable – measuring the effectiveness of media content in political persuasion

Subscription tech… Chargebee, a platform for companies to manage customer payments on a subscription model, raised a $18M Series C led by Insight Venture Partners with Accel and Tiger Global. (link)

More info… on Gary Barber’s abrupt exit from MGM yesterday and the tension between him, board members, and others. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Alliance for American Football is being launched as a new football league in the US to compete with the NFL. It’s led by Charlie Ebersol and backed by the Chernin Group, Founders Fund, Slow Ventures, Keith Rabois, and others. CBS bought the rights to broadcast the first season, in spring 2019, which will feature 8 franchise teams of 50 players each. (link)
  • Fox Sports signed a multi-year, multi-platform deal to broadcast the Professional Bowlers Association tour. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • FreemantleMedia CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz has resigned and will join Youtube to run its business operations across EMEA. The TV production powerhouse (owned by Bertelsmann’s RTL Group) has begun a search for her replacement; she’ll remain until then. (link)
    • Roku is expanding its Roku Channel – an ad-supported OTT channel featuring licensed shows and movies – to Samsung smart TVs after having only been available on Roku. (link)
    • The Weinstein Co. got approval for a loan from Union Bank to continue operations during its bankruptcy. The offer from Dallas-based PE firm Lantern is for $435M including $125M in debt. The company will have to pay a $9M break-up fee if it sells to another bidder. (link)
    • Vintage TV, the UK-based cable TV channel featuring music videos and other musical performances, is expanding to the US where it will have a production facility in Nashville. (link)
      • Vintage has already expanded to Canada and China and has a reach of 10M homes. It says it’s filling the gap left by MTV and CMT abandoning pure music content in favor of reality TV.
    • Youtube launched a new feature that lets people live stream from their desktop computer without needing an encoder. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Good to know:
    • Google announced the Google News Initiative yesterday. The 3 key business efforts they’re now rolling out are:
      • News Consumer Insights – a subscription-centric  dashboard in Google Analytics to share insights on audience segmentation, optimizing the conversion funnel, and better understanding churn.
      • Dropping its cut of subscription payments in its Google Play store to 5-15%, down from the current 30% (with 15% after the first year). (link)
      • Subscribe with Google – use your google account to sign in and pay for a news subscription on any partner site.

Gaming and AR/VR

  • M6, an esports subsidiary of European media conglomerate RTL Group (owned by Bertelsmann), has taken a minority stake in Glory4Gamers, a French esports competition organizer. (link)
  • Vivendi has sold its 27% stake in Ubisoft, the French video game publisher it has been buying shares in for 3 years with hopes of gaining full control and making it the games division of its conglomerate (alongside mobile gaming studio Gameloft). Tencent and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan are stepping in as new long-term investors alongside the founders. (link)
  • CryptoKitties, a collectible kitten game built on the Ethereum blockchain that raised $12M in an ICO, has spun out of design firm Axiom Zen and raised $12M from Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. (link)
  • Google is acquiring VR camera startup Lytro for a reported $25-40M. The company had raised $200M. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Will Wright, the game designer behind The Sims, SimCity, and Spore is returning to game development after a decade. He’s creating a new mobile game called Proxi. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • 12 Tone, the new record label being formed by Sony Music chairman Doug Morris, is in late stages of negotiating with Warner Music Groupfor distribution. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Because Music, an indie record label based in London and Paris, hired Nick Huggett as CCO, overseeing A&R. He’s known for signing and developing Adele while at XL Recordings. (link)
    • Universal Music promoted Nicole Richards to lead Island Records Australia. (link)

Telecom

  • Deutsche Telekom is buying a 5% stake in Greece’s OTE Telecom(link)
  • Good to know
    • Singtel (Singapore Telecommunications Ltd) is creating “the Star Alliance of telco wallets”…a mobile payment wallet in partnership with telecoms elsewhere around Asia so consumers and SMBs can use the same payment method as they travel between countries. Singtel brings its 50M mobile wallet users to the project. (link)

MediaDeals – Tue, March 20, 2018

It’s a busy Tuesday for news, media friends. Lots of new product launches, partnerships, and Chairman/CEO turnover.

But first, here’s a quick overview of media-related startups who unveiled yesterday at the Y Combinator demo day in Silicon Valley (there will be a second batch presenting today):

  • Curious Fictions: subscription platform for short stories
  • Juni Learning: online learn-to-code courses for kids ages 5-18
  • Rythmm: view live chats between experts/influencers as entertainment (open to an audience)
  • Supermedium: a web browser built natively for virtual reality
  • Tingles: a video platform for ASMR (video/sounds that help you relax)
  • Visor: analyzes esports gameplay to coach users
  • Voicery: leverages AI to create computer voices that sound a lot more like humans than Alexa does, so you can use for voice-overs, recording audiobooks, etc.
  • Volley: voice-based gaming (on Alexa, etc.)

Also interesting – and perhaps unsurprising given to prominence of Trump and “fake news” debates in pop culture – the number of applications to top journalism schools in the US have soared 10-24% yoy. (link)

The FTC (US Federal Trade Commision) has launched an investigation into Facebook’s use and protection of user data amid the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. (link)

Film/TV/Video

  • Cheddar raised a $22M Series D (at $160M valuation) led by the Raine Group (Gordon Rubenstein) with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners (Jeremy Liew), Liberty Global, Goldman Sachs, 7 Global Capital (new VC fund backed by ProSiebenSat.1), and others. (link)
    • Cheddar has abandoned its subscription model and is back to just having an ad-supported tier.
  • 7TV, the OTT platform launched in Germany in October as a joint venture between Discovery, Inc. and ProSiebenSat.1 has expanded to add channels from outside partners, starting with Sport1, WELT, and N24 Doku. (link)
  • The PGA Tour has partnered with OTT platform Xumo to launch a dedicated channel with live coverage of PGA events and other on-demand content. (link)
  • Weinstein Co. is seeking a court-supervised bankruptcy with Lantern Asset Management as the preferred bidder to acquire the film company’s assets. Lantern is a middle-market PE firm in Dallas whose other portfolio co’s are in luxury resorts, auto dealerships, and shipping. They were part of the Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle investor group. In such a process, other bidders could still compete. (link)
  • Viacom has expanded its partnership with Luxembourg-based satellite TV provider M7 Group, making Nickelodeon and Spike channels available in the Benelux region and giving Viacom capacity on an M7 satellite that it can use for other distribution partnerships in Benelux. (link)
  • YuppTV, the popular OTT platform for watching Indian shows outside India, signed an exclusive deal to stream Indian Premier Leaguecricket matches across Europe, South America, and SE Asia. (link)
  • Gravity Media Group, the British holdco of the Gearhouse Broadcasting TV equipment rental and event production brand, acquired Genesis Broadcast Services and is rebranding it as Gearhouse Germany. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • MGM announced that Gary Barber is out as Chairman and CEO of the film studio – an abrupt departure that comes only 5 months after the board renewed a 5-year contract with him. (link)
      • The Hollywood Reporter says MGM’s largest shareholder, hedge fund Anchorage Capital, led the coup. Also on the board are David Krane from Google Ventures and James Dondero (Highland Capital Mgmt).
    • AMC Entertainment named Wanda Film Group president (and current AMC board member) John Zeng as its new Chairman.
    • Facebook is adding the ability for popular video creators to add $4.99/month subscriptions to their Facebook pages, with fans who subscribe getting exclusive content and badges identifying them as a supporter. It’ll start testing it with 10 creators in mid-April. (link)
    • FreemantleMedia’s Australia subsidiary has a new CEO: Chris Oliver-Taylor, who has been Managing Director of Matchbox Pictures (owned by NBCU). (link)

News/Publishing

  • Good to know:
    • China Literature, a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of Tencent that is China’s largest platform for digital literature and e-books, reported $647M in FY17 revenue (+64% yoy) and $85M in earnings (+1,415% yoy). (link)
      • The company is moving aggressively to license its extensive IP for other entertainment ventures, especially within the wide scope of Tencent’s digital video units.
    • NOVA Entertainment, the Australian radio and pay-TV company owned by Lachlan Murdoch, launched a new subsidiary called GOAT, a pop culture media brand that’s only available on mobile. (link)
    • The Telegraph is making a big push to be the go-to UK publication for tech coverage, hiring 12 editorial staff for the Technology Intelligence vertical, 5 of whom will be based in a new Silicon Valley bureau. (link)
    • Tronc chairman Michael Ferro’s retirement announcement yesterday was followed within hours by a Fortune article reporting sexual harassment allegations (including from Kathryn Minshew, CEO of career-advice media startup The Muse).
      • Ferro will continue receiving $5M/yr consulting payments he set up for himself while running Tronc (through 2020).
      • It’s not clear yet if he’s also selling Tronc stock (he’s the largest shareholder, at 28%).

Gaming and AR/VR

  • Klang, a Berlin-based game studio, raised a $5M Series A led by Makers Fund with participation from Mosaic Ventures, London Venture Partners, Greylock Partners, Riot Games, Firstminute Capital, and others. (link)
     
  • Good to know:
    • Facebook will launch its Oculus Go headset at its F8 conference in May. It’s a $200 headset that does not require a separate controller or smartphone to operate, like Samsung’s Gear VR does. (link)
    • Facebook released a Games SDK for developers to create Twitch-like live streams of games that show up in the Facebook news feed. (link)
    • Facebook last week made the development of Facebook Instant Games open to everyone. This lets people create games that are played within the Facebook and Messenger apps.
    • Google’s Google Play store is launching a feature so users can test games before having to install them. (link)
    • Magic Leap launched the developer SDK for its Lumin operating system so developers can start building apps ahead of the launch of the Magic Leap One headset later this year. (link)
    • Weta Workshop launched Weta Gameshop, a subsidiary studio focused on creating mixed reality content specifically for the Magic Leap ecosystem. The first title by the 50-person team in Wellington, NZ is called Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders and has quietly been in production for years. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Believe, a Paris-based digital music distribution & label services company that has raised $60M from TCV, Ventech, GP Bullhound, and Xange, is raising more funding for an aggressive M&A strategy and also planning for an IPO on Euronext. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Canal Street Music Management launched as a new artist management company run by Wayne Sharp with backing from Crush Music. Artists include The B-52s and Rick Springfield. (link)
    • Spotify hired Tom Connaughton as Head of Artist & Label Marketing for the UK, reporting to Troy Carter. He was previously SVP of Creative Content & Programming at Vevo. (link)

MediaDeals – Mon, March 19, 2018

Good Monday morning/afternoon, everyone. Lots of IPO news today…

Subscription infrastructure… Zuora filed for an IPO on Friday (NYSE: ZUO). The tech company aims to be the go-to platform for managing subscription models across a wide scope of industries. Their growing media customer base includes The Guardian, The Financial Times, HBO Nordic, and The Telegraph. Seems like a stock that will benefit from strong macro winds in the rush to implement subscriptions across media/entertainment. (link)

Tencent’s next stage… Tencent CEO Pony Ma announced that its signature app WeChat – used for seemingly every type of messaging and marketplace function in China – has officially surpassed 1B users. It took 7 years to do so, one year less than it took Facebook to hit that milestone. The app is the centerpiece of Tencent but now only one of its major subsidiaries, as its Tencent Music Entertainment dominates the music streaming market in China, its Tencent Video has a strong foothold in SVOD (over 62M paying subscribers), and it’s an active investor in a wide range of tech companies in Asia and the US.

Film/TV/Video

  • iQiyi, the video streaming platform in China that’s comparable to Netflix and 69%-owned by Baidu, filed for its IPO on the Nasdaq (ticker: IQ). It plans to sell 125M shares at $17-19, raising $2.1-2.4B at a ~$14B valuation. (link)
    • It had $2.67B in FY17 revenue (+55% yoy) and -$607M in operating loss from 50.8M subscribers who spend 1.7hrs/day on the platform on average.
    • It is Netflix’s distribution partner in China, where Netflix doesn’t operate.
  • Bilibili, the anime-focused video streaming platform in China, filed details of its IPO in the US as well. It’ll list on the NYSE under the ticker “BILI” and sell 42M shares priced $10.50-12.50 (raising $441-525M). It has $380M in FY17 revenue (+249% yoy) with a -$34M operating loss. (link)
    • It has 76M MAUs, 82% of whom are Chinese born between 1990 and 2009.
    • Major shareholders: Rui Chen (CEO), Yi Xu (president), Ruigang Li (CMC Holdings chairman), Kami Sama, CMC Holdings, Loyal Valley Capital, IDG-Accel China, Legend Capital, and Tencent.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is expected to finalize a deal this week to invest $400M in Endeavor, the holding company for talent agency WME-IMG and other entertainment/events properties, for a less than 10% stake.
    • With backing from Silver Lake Partners, a Canadian pension fund, and the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Endeavor is led by Hollywood super-agents Ari Emanuel (CEO) and Patrick Whitesell (Chairman) and has been on an M&A spree growing it from a global talent agency to a broader entertainment conglomerate.
    • The Saudi government is working to aggressively build its domestic markets for entertainment. The kingdom recently lifted its ban on movie cinemas and it also just invested $200M in Penske Media, owner of Rolling Stone, Variety, Deadline, etc., with plans for a joint venture in the Middle East.
  • Good to know:
    • BuzzFeed is planning to eliminate windowing and launch its episodic video series across all online streaming platforms simultaneously. (link)
    • Disney shareholders voted 52% against an executive compensation plan in a non-binding advisory vote, feeling that Bob Iger’s $423M 4-year package has performance benchmarks set too low.
    • VICE recruited Dominique Delpot, the current president of Vivendi Content and global managing director of Vivendi’s advertising subsidiary Havas, to become VICE’s new head of international operations. He starts in May. (link)

News/Publishing

  • Google has been running initial tests with The Australian and other Australian papers, as well as the Washington Post and New York Post, as it prepares to enable consumers to buy news subscriptions directly from its Google Play app store. It’ll keep 15% of subscription revenue, half of the 30% that Apple takes in its app store. (link)
  • Good to know:
    • Tronc chairman Michael Ferro is stepping down following the sale of the Los Angeles Times (to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, another large Tronc shareholder who battled with Ferro over strategy and excessive executive spending). Tronc’s share price plummeted last week after a quarterly earnings call in which it seemed the executive team didn’t have a strong plan going forward or optimism about 2018 financials. CEO Justin Dearborn will add the Chairman title to his role. (link)
    • Meredith to expected to lay off 200-300 Time Inc employees in the next week or so, given redundancies with existing staff post-acquisition. (link)
    • Wikipedia did a 214,000 person survey in 14 languages to collect insights about why people are visiting the online encyclopedia and what they want to get from it. (link)

Gaming and AR/VR

  • Good to know:
    • Upload, a VR company offering training, coworking, and enterprise consulting from offices in LA and SF, shut down Friday with nearly all employees laid off. Its UploadVR news site will continue operating, however. The company was hit with sexual harassment allegations by two employees a year ago, and responded by hiring a new COO who subsequently sued for harassment as well. (link)

Music/Radio/Podcasting

  • Facebook signed licensing deals with European music publishers WixenSacem, and Socan as part of its ongoing spree to lock down rights for music use on its social platform. (link)
  • Sony Music Entertainment Australia has struck a new global distribution deal with Melbourne-based UNIFIED Music Group, which will expand offices in Los Angeles and London. (link)

Digital Learning

  • Kahoot, an Oslo-based learning platform centered on games and trivia used in both K12 schools and by HR teams for corporate learning, raised a $17M Series B (at a $100M valuation) led by Date Invest ASwith participation from prior investors CreandumMicrosoft Ventures, and Northzone. With one of its co-founders reinstalled as CEO, it’s focusing on the expansion of premium subscription services. (link)
  • OneSmart International Education Group, the Shanghai-based startup that offers after-school education programming to (upper middle class) K-12 children in 42 cities around China, filed further info on its NYSE IPO. Under the ticker “ONE”, it will sell 16.3M shares at $11-$13, raising ~$200M at a ~$2B valuation. (link)
    • OneSmart had $331M in FY17 revenue with $46M in operating income.
    • Major shareholder’s are founder Xi Zhang’s Happy Edu Inc. (39%), Origin Investment Holdings (16%), Goldman Sachs (11%), and Juniperbridge Capital (8%).