Deal News: April 27, 2020

(This was first published in today’s Monetizing Media newsletter. Sign up here to receive it daily.)

Digestible Media


  • AMPTP (the trade group representing film studios and TV networks) and SAG-AFTRA (the union of US actors, singers, and other performing artists) begin negotiations today for a new 3-year contract. (Read more)
  • Cheddar, which Altice bought for $200m one year ago, is merging its two OTT news channels into one, making lay-offs, and closing its LA studio. (Read more)
  • Nordisk Film, the Nordic entertainment conglomerate active in film/TV, cinemas, and gaming, acquired a minority stake in Norwegian production company Fantefilm (known for The Wave and The Quake). (Read more)
  • Universal Pictures and LEGO Group signed a 5-year exclusive deal for Universal to develop films tied to the toy maker’s IP. LEGO previously had a deal with Warner Bros that resulted in 4 films which grossed $1.1b. (Read more)
  • Mediaset, the Italian TV giant founded and controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, increased its stake in German TV conglomerate ProSiebenSat.1 by 4.1% to 24.2% after getting German govt approval to increase to 25%. (Read more)
  • ProSiebenSat.1 plans to shutter its longtime VOD service Maxdome this summer and has already blocked new sign-ups, directing everyone to its new SVOD service Joyn. (Read more)
  • Visits to film piracy sites were up 57% in the last month in the UK. (Read more)


  • Google will now require all advertisers to verify their identity, something initially implemented just for political ads. (Read more)
  • Verizon Media had Q1 revenue of $1.7b, down 4% yoy. (Read more)
  • Here’s a Vanity Fair profile on how the UK’s Daily Mail has captured much of the US tabloid market: (Read it)
  • Exor, the holding company of Italy’s wealthy Agnelli family (led by Fiat chairman John Elkann), completed its €102m acquisition of a controlling minority stake in Italian print news group GEDI. (Read more)


  • Epic Games‘ first Travis Scott concert within Fortnite peaked at 12.3m concurrent users, the highest publicly reported peak for Fortnite yet. (Read more)
    • Led by Fortnite, popular games are turning to non-gaming events that occur within their worlds as a marketing strategy to break into non-gaming pop culture more.
    • Fortnite hasn’t reported any user metrics in a very long time (78m MAUs in Aug 2018), and third-party sources have tracked declining revenues since 2018, so a new peak from the 10.8m concurrent users who joined the Marshmello concert in Feb 2019 is a healthy sign.
    • The massive popularity of certain MMO games also offers musicians a new channel to entertain fans and expose new audiences to their music. This weekend also saw superstar producers Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat DJ-ing within Minecraft, for example.
  • Saudi Public Investment Fund disclosed a new $500m (5.7%) stake in Live Nation today. (Read more)
    • The shares were bought on the open market and appears to just be a passive investment betting on Live Nation’s recovering given its shares are down 50% since Feb 20.
  • Liberty Media transferred its $2.6b (33%) stake in Live Nation (and $1.3b in liabilities) from being housed under Formula One Group to being housed under Liberty SiriusXM, and moved $1.4b in cash (plus $165m call spread) from Liberty SiriusXM to Formula One. (Read more)
    • Liberty SiriusXM is a publicly traded vehicle housing Liberty Media’s stake in SiriusXM and other assets.
    • It aligns the audio-related assets in one publicly-traded vehicle together while getting cash to its racing business (hard hit by Covid-19) and releasing slumping Live Nation shares from dragging Formula One Group down further. 


  • Luminary profile in Bloomberg on weak adoption but renewed focus on finding a winning strategy with lower price point: (Read here)

Interactive Media


  • Zynga partnered with Amazon to provide free in-app purchases to Words With Friends players who link their Amazon Prime account. (Read more)
  • TV ads in the US by gaming companies doubled during the month since major US cities went into lockdown. (Read more)
  • Author Digital and Super!com formed a new game studio in Seattle called Adept Games as a joint venture backed by $5.5m from Super!’s $50m investment fund. Adept is building multiple story-centric games. (Read more)
  • Reworks, a Helsinki game studio behind the new home decoration game Redecor, announced €4m is seed funding from EQT Ventures (Lars Jörnow), Play Ventures, and Anton Gauffin who founded casino mobile games giant Huuuge. (Read more)
  • Stillfront Group, the Stockholm-based games holding co, acquired Miami-based casual mobile game studio Candywriter for $74m (half stock, half cash) with a $120m earn out based on performance through 2022. (Read more)
  • Opera Event, an Oakland-based platform for esports teams to secure event sponsorship and have their fans who also stream take part in the sponsor’s campaign, raised a $5M Series A. Investors were AnteraAtlas VenturesEverblue, and Konvoy. (Read more)
  • 1939 Games, the Icelandic studio behind WWII-themed digital card game Kards (100k weekly users), raised $1.9m in additional funding. (Read more)


  • WITHIN, the LA-based VR studio led by director Chris Milk, released Supernatural, a $19/mo VR app for fitness training for Oculus Quest. It features different workouts (set in exotic locations) that are personalized by tracking a user’s body. (Website)
  • My TechCrunch colleague Lucas Matney analyzed “What happens if Magic Leap shuts down?


  • Facebook on Friday launched a set of video calling updates to allow for better group calls across its properties, including a Hangouts-like feature on Facebook where friends can casually drop into your call. (Read more)
  • Telegram surpassed 400m MAUs (Read more)
  • AT&T‘s new CEO is longtime telecom exec (and recent WarnerMedia CEO) John Stankey.
    • Fortune critiques outgoing CEO Randall Stephenson, who was also the target of activist hedge fund Elliott’s criticism. AT&T’s future hinges heavily on HBO Max being an enormous success, making up for its collapsing pay-TV division (~19m subs, losing ~1m per quarter) which includes a failed $49b bet on DirecTV.
  • Snap is following its strong Q1 earnings report by raising $750m in new convertible debt. It raised $1b in convertible debt last August. GS and JPM are managing the process. (Read more)
  • WhatsApp says its recent restriction on how many times a message can be forwarded has reduced viral messages by 70%. Misinformation spread through WhatsApp has been a big problem, leading to vigilante mobs and scams in India and elsewhere. (Read more)


  • Transcend Fund launched as a new $50m gaming-focused VC fund in SF focused on $200k-2m checks at seed and Series A. It’s led by Shanti Bergel, a longtime product and corp dev exec (and angel investor) in gaming. (Read more)