June 1, 2020

(This was originally published within today’s newsletter. Subscribe here.)

Zynga’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Peak Games
Zynga is buying Peak Games, the Istanbul-based mobile games studio that has 12 million DAUs across puzzle games Toon Blast and Toy Blast, for $1.8B in a half-cash, half-stock deal. (Read more)

Peak raised less than $25M from outside investors, making this a big financial outcome for Peak CEO Sidar Sahin and the other founders and early investors. The studio’s first investor, London-based Hummingbird Ventures, invested €500k at a €2M pre-money valuation in 2010; in a blog post, it says this acquisition alone provides an 8.6x return on their entire fund. German firm Earlybird Ventures — which led Peak’s Series A, B, and C rounds — claims a $520M return.

Zynga acquired Peak’s mobile card game business (Spades Plus, Gin Rummy Plus, Okey Plus, and 101 Okey Plus) in 2017 for $100M. Zynga rose during 2009-2013 as the leading social games company but then saw gamers move on from the category. It gradually regained footing as a leading mobile game publisher, largely via M&A or smaller, fast-growing studios. via an M&A centric strategy. Zynga says the acquisition will increase Q2 revenue projections from $460M to $500M.

This is a case study of the favorable investor dynamics with game studios: successful games are quickly profitable and the studio can grow substantially without further funding rounds that heavily dilute the early shareholders (founding team + investors). It also highlights the geographic spread of where leading gaming startups are based, with Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Latin America birthing large studios and attracting foreign investors.

Interesting Deals, Stats, & Product Updates

Digestible Media


  • NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is exploring the idea of re-focusing CNBC‘s evening programming (think Shark Tank and The Profit) on conservative political talk shows, according to NYT media columnist Ben Smith. (Read more)
    • This is already the territory of Fox News and Fox Business, but perhaps Shell sees market share to capture just by entering a less crowded field where Fox is soaking up profits.
    • It comes as Sinclair Broadcasting, a leading group of US local TV channels, has been exploring its own 24/7 cable network and as President Trump has been promoting a new Southern California-based network, OAN.
  • Facebook‘s IGTV app has finally added ads and a rev-share split of 55% for creators two years after it launched, but it won’t be enabling media companies to participate until the start of next year. (Read more)
  • Netflix bought the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, giving it a dedicated venue to premier its original films. American Cinematheque, the non-profit that owned the iconic theatre until now, will continue to program much of the venue’s schedule. (Read more)
  • Cheddar is consolidating its two OTT TV channels into one that features a mix of both business and cultural/political news. (Read more)
  • WWE is launching a free tier to its OTT network. (Read more)


  • This year’s schedule of book releases have all been pushed into the fall, making it hard for authors to stand out from the marketing noise. (Read more)
  • While many news publishers are making layoffs and salary cuts, leading subscription news brands like the NYT and WSJ are actively hiring and expanding. (Read more)


  • Infographic on how Covid-19 lockdown affects different parts of the music industry: (See here)

Interactive Media


  • Netease, the Chinese gaming giant that has traded on Nasdaq for two decades, is also listing on the Hong Kong exchange this week, selling $3B in shares. (Read more)
  • Paradox, the Stockholm-based creator of grand strategy games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron, is opening a Barcelona studio to lead development of Europa Universalis IV. (Read more)


  • Facebook‘s R&D team released Venue, an app oriented around discussion of live events. (Read more)
  • Slow Ventures’ Sam Lessin outlines both reasons the new social audio app Clubhouse could be the next big thing and why specific product decisions could inhibit it from success. (Read it here)
  • PE firms ProvidenceKKR, and Cinven are making a joint bid for a majority stake in Spain’s 4th largest telecom, MasMovil, valuing it at €3B (or €5B including debt). (Read more)
    • MasMovil has been a fast growing new entrant in the market, rolling up smaller companies and securing market share of 14% in mobile and 11% in broadband.