June 22, 2020

Hi everyone – hope the week is kicking off well. 

Yesterday I published an article on Confronting Racial Bias in Video Games. Games are often overlooked in discussions of how media portrayals of different demographics affect real-world treatment of those groups.

The biggest problem within gaming is that the homogeneity of game companies’ teams often results in obliviousness to how non-White/Asian demographics are portrayed (or not portrayed) and not treating diversity as a business priority.

I featured a couple of the new game studios — Glow Up Games and Brass Lion Entertainment — that see the underrepresentation of Black and Latinx characters in games as a big business opportunity given the large % of gamers of those ethnicities. Gaming is behind Hollywood in waking up to the reality that diversity is about untapped markets in addition to being a moral and political issue.

Microsoft is shutting down Mixer
Microsoft is abandoning its attempt to compete in the game live-streaming market, with the announcement today that its Twitch-competitor Mixer will shut down on July 22.

As part of a deal with Facebook, Mixer will redirect all users to Facebook Gaming thereafter. Top live-streamers on Mixer (“partners”) are automatically being made partners on Facebook Gaming and will receive the same deal terms they had with Mixer.

Mixer paid up to secure the top streamers exclusively to its platform — most notably its $20-30M deal with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins — but never amassed the consumer following to catch up with Amazon’s Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. That top tier of streamers are being freed from their contracts, so expect the remaining platforms in the space to make bids on new exclusive deals.

Mediawan’s pan-European TV play

Mediawan announced it is acquiring the Spanish TV production studio Good Mood for an undisclosed sum and in the process of acquiring Lagardère’s production unit Lagardère Studios for up to €100M.

Paris-based Lagardère has been spinning off assets to focus entirely on its Publishing and Retail divisions, which are dominated by the book publisher Hachete and airport store chain Relay, respectively.

Mediawan was launched as a SPAC on the Paris stock exchange in 2015 by telco billionaire Xavier Niel, banker Matthieu Pigasse (then Lazard, now Centerview), and TV exec Pierre-Antoine Capton to roll up scripted TV production companies in Europe. Mediawan has acquired 23 companies since.

The founding trio also announced today that they are teaming up with insurer MACSF, which owns 7.8% of shares, and PE firm KKR to buy out the 73% of Mediawan shares they don’t already own via an entity called Mediawan Alliance. Mediawan Alliance will also take a minority stake in KKR portfolio company Leonine, a production/distribution company that has been running a similar strategy (at smaller scale) in Germany.

Interesting Deals, Stats, & Product Updates

Digestible Media


  • An Italian court rejected Vivendi‘s lawsuit to block Mediaset from merging its Italian and Spanish subsidiaries into one Dutch holding company called MediaForEurope. (Read more)
    • Mediaset founder (and former Italian Prime Minister) Silvio Berlusconi has been making a play to create a larger pan-European TV conglomerate that can better challenge Netflix and others. 
    • This was the latest in an ongoing drama of Vivendi and Mediaset suing each other. Vivendi took a minority stake in Mediaset and has tried to block the MediaForEurope strategy, arguing its just about the Berlusconi family increasing its % control over Mediaset assets.
  • DAZN and Sky paid €4.4B for 4-year domestic broadcasting rights to Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league. It’s €200M less than the 4-year rights deal that expires after this season, suggesting DAZN and Sky expect the market to return post-Covid fairly swiftly, albeit not entirely. (Read more)
  • Disney removed its 7-day free trial for Disney+, ahead of the release of the Hamilton Broadway recording. The demand to watch Hamilton should convert a lot of subscribers who would otherwise only stick around for the free trial to watch Hamilton. (Read more)
  • Cineworld agreed to a new $250 million secured debt facility. (Read more)
  • Weta Digital, the special effects industry leader based in Wellington NZ, is launching an animation division. (Read more)


  • The Local, a network of English-language news sites for expats in Europe, increased paying subscribers by 70% to 26,000 since Covid-19 lockdowns started in March.
    • Here’s a case study on the different ways the 11-person team is monetizing its 6-7M monthly unique visitors (which soared to 17M in March).
  • BuzzFeed has been seeking a buyer for BuzzFeed Germany, and German trade pub Meedia reports that an investor group consisting of Markus PossetAlexander Schütz, and Klemens Hallmann are making a bid. (Read more, in German)


  • Live Nation is dropping its artist guarantees by 20%, requiring artists to get their own concert insurance, and increasing the penalty for artists who cancel a concert, among other changes. (Read more)
  • Live Nation is testing its first drive-in concert. (Read more)
  • European digital distribution company Kontor New Media has acquired Germany-based punk, rock and metalcore label Arising Empire. (Read more)


  • SiriusXM bought podcast distributor and analytics platform Simplecast. (Read more)
  • Spotify shares have been soaring over the last month. The company’s $43B market cap is $13B higher than in mid-May.
    • Investor confidence seems to be growing that Spotify can dominate the podcast market, a key priority for the Swedish company, which has signed exclusive deals with Joe Rogan, DC Entertainment, and Kim Kardashian in the last month.
  • Spotify is testing interactive podcast ads, with a visual ad appearing in-app alongside the audio ad so the advertiser can directly link to a site or share a promo code. (Read more)
    • Spotify also last week began rolling out video ads to its free tier users in the US, UK, and Canada. (Read more)

Interactive Media

Interactive Storytelling

  • Twitch announced two of the interactive TV shows it is producing as part of its push to pioneer the format on its platform. (Read more)


  • DMarket, the LA-based marketplace for digital items from video games,raised $6.5M in Series A funding from Almaz Capital and Xsolla. It also announced EA founder Trip Hawkins as an independent board member. (Read more)
  • Riot Games announced there will be no skin trading built into its new hit game Valorant. This forces players to only buy directly from Riot. (Read more)
    • As explained in the same virtual economies article, this is standard in gaming still but dramatically limits the potential size of Valorant‘s economy and the money that could be earned from it. Think state-controlled economy vs. free markets. Game devs are wary of the liability and complexity that comes with a more open economy.
    • Many Valorant players will still trade skins, they’ll just do it via the grey market on other sites.
  • Nintendo is pulling back its mobile games ambitions to keep its focus on growth of the Switch console following the massive success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. (Read more)
  • Blooper Team, the Polish studio behind Xbox exclusive game The Medium, is reportedly in acquisition talks with multiple US and European companies. (Read more)
  • Polyient Games launched as an accelerator for blockchain-based gaming infrastructure startups. (Read more)


  • Bose is shutting down its program to develop an audio-enhanced augmented reality platform for third-party developers. (Read more


  • France’s Constitutional Council ruled that a new law requiring social media companies to take down illicit content within 24 hours of it posting is unconstitutional. (Read more)
  • My TechCrunch colleagues compiled a reading list of articles to learn about Reliance Jio, India’s largest mobile carrier which has raised over $14B in the last month. (Read it here)
  • A summary of news from Apple‘s annual WWDC event today: (Read it here)


  • The Information profiled Endeavor‘s challenges since it pulled its planned IPO last year. (Read it here)

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