June 29, 2020

Hi everyone – I spoke with Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch about his strategy for expanding the longtime premium cable network into SVOD in the US and abroad, including user acquisition, pricing, and content localization efforts. Here’s the interview on TechCrunch.

Interesting Deals, Stats, & Product Updates

Digestible Media


  • SpringHill Co., the entertainment company led by basketball star LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter whose holdings are the SpringHill film/TV production co, the Uninterrupted media brand, and the Robot Co. marketing agency, raised $100M from Elisabeth MurdochGuggenheim Partners, the University of California endowment, and SC.Holdings. (Read more)
  • YouTube is beta testing a feature for creators to post 15-second videos like on TikTok. (Read more)
  • Spire Animation Studios, a new animated film studio, raised seed funding from the new CAA-affiliated VC firm Connect Ventures and entertainment law firm Ziffren Brittenham. (Read more)
  • The Sundance Film Festival will be spread across 21 different cities next January instead of taking place only in Park City, UT as usual. (Read more)
  • NENT raised its 2020 new subscriber target for Nordic SVOD service Viaplay from 400k to 600k. It finished 2019 with 2.3M subs and added 200k in Q1. (Read more)


  • The New York Times withdrew from Apple‘s Apple News subscription bundle. (Read more)
  • Great Hill Partners acquired the subscription-based stock media marketplace Storyblocks. (Read more)


  • Artlist, an Israel-based platform for companies and independent creators to access royalty-free music, raised $48 million from PE firm KKR. (Read more)
    • Artlist is a competitor to Stockholm-based, EQT-backed platform Epidemic Sound.
  • Soundtrack Your Brand, the Stockholm-based music streaming service for businesses (that spun out of Spotify in 2013), overhauled its cap table in recent months, per a story by Swedish startup publication Breakit. (Read more, in Swedish)
    • Tension over a focus on rapid growth and/or seeking a sale (preferred by Spotify and investors like Balderton, DIG, Industrifonden, and Northzone) vs. a focus on improving margins (preferred by management) led to new (Miami-based) investor Rokk3r investing for a 37% stake at a $34M valuation, half its prior valuation.
    • The co-founders’ stake and Spotify’s stake were diluted from 15% to about 3.5%, with an option plan getting the founders back to 14% based on performance.
    • 2019 financials were $12M in revenue (+20% yoy) with a $8.8M loss.

Interactive Media


  • Tencent is beta testing a new live streaming platform in the US to compete with Twitch, called Trovo. (Check it out)
  • Roblox surpassed $1.5B in player spending over its mobile app, including $102M in May. The vast majority of revenue comes from users in the US and with iOS devices. (Read more)
  • Roblox partnered with Warner Bros and DC to create a virtual world in Roblox modeled on Wonder Woman’s home island. (Read more)
  • Focus Home Interactive, the French publisher behind World War Z that earned €13M in profit on €143 in revenue over the last year, acquired German studio Deck13 for €7M. (Read more)


  • Mirror, the interactive fitness video startup that sells a subscription to video workout classes delivered through an at-home wall-mounted device (with a mirror), is getting acquired by Canadian fitness apparel maker Lululemon for $500M. (Read more)


  • Facebook opened up fan subscriptions to any creator in the US, UK, and several other markets. The feature lets creators with Facebook pages charge a $4.99 per month membership that paywalls exclusive content, gives fans a membership badge alongside their posts, and other perks. (Read more)
    • Niche creators are key to Facebook succeeding in its effort to orient Facebook around private interactions and membership in shared interest groups. For creators to devote themselves to community building on the platform, the monetization options have to be more lucrative than just a rev-share on ad revenue. 
    • Social platforms are wary of creators wanting to own their audience and drive fans to their websites or sites like Patreon, Substack, etc. so they are building similar features (while still not giving creators access to fans’ contact info, ensuring they stay beholden to the platform.)
    • I outlined the growing competition between leading social platforms to allow creators to directly monetize their fans in my February 2019 series on Patreon.
  • TikTok has been monitoring what iOS users with its app copy to their device’s clipboard when they’re not using the app, per cybersecurity researchers Mysk. The same issue was reported in February for Android devices, with TikTok saying that was due to a faulty Android update. (Read more)
  • Unilever and Verizon are among a wave of giant companies pulled their advertising from Facebook temporarily in protest of the amount of hate speech on the platform. (Read more)
  • Cox Communications, the US telecom, launched an internet plan specifically for gamers that promises lower latency in response times to gaming-related servers. (Read more)
    • Perhaps the start of a trend?


  • CAA and the VC firm NEA have formed a new $100M VC fund called Connect Ventures targeting media-tech startups. (Read more)
    • It’s the latest of many attempts by Hollywood’s top talent agencies to succeed in VC and seems most similar to the Mailroom Fund (2008-11) that William Morris launched with Accel and Venrock.
  • MCH Group, the financially troubled Swiss parent company of art fair Art Basel, is reportedly in talks with James and Rupert Murdoch to sell a 30% stake for $105 million. (Read more)

This originally appeared in today’s Monetizing Media newsletter. Sign up here.