Preview 2017

10 Digital Deals to Watch: Snapchat, Vice, Buzzfeed and More

8:30 AM 12/22/2016

by Natalie Jarvey and Georg Szalai

Hollywood spent millions of dollars beefing up its game in 2016, including Verizon’s blockbuster bid for Yahoo. The next 12 months may be even more transformative.

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If 2016 was the year that Hollywood made serious bets on digital upstarts that threaten to upend legacy media, next year finally could see more long-term tie-ups.

Observers especially have their eyes on Vice Media, which is believed to have been exploring a sale to Disney or others against an IPO, and on Snapchat parent Snap, which is expected to go public in March.

Cowen analyst Doug Creutz expects digital investments to continue: “We had rumors that Disney was going to go out and buy some new media asset,” he says.

Creutz predicts smaller digital investment deals to continue. "Are they useful and helpful? I'm sort of skeptical," he says. "But they are putting a lot of small bets on a lot of places, so maybe some are. Companies want to have assets in those places, so they can say if things change in this direction, we have an asset over here."

THR looks at 10 key digital deals from 2016 that could offer a road map for the year of digital deals ahead.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  1. 1
    10

    Verizon/Yahoo

    The telecom giant spent $4.83 billion for the internet company, with plans to merge with AOL. That could foreshadow more consolidation in the space.

  2. 2
    10

    NBCUniversal/Buzzfeed

    The $200 million investment this year followed a 2015 bet of the same amount at a $1.5 billion valuation. Now BuzzFeed will create native ads for NBCU’s content studio. 

  3. 3
    10

    Disney/BAMtech

    The $1 billion pact for a 33 percent stake in Major League Baseball’s digital arm, with an option to acquire control, also includes a planned ESPN streaming service.

  4. 4
    10

    Time Warner/Hulu

    The HBO and CNN owner will join Hulu’s forthcoming live TV service after buying a 10 percent stake for $583 million.

  5. 5
    10

    Verizon/AwesomenessTV

    The telecom joined minority owner Hearst and majority owner DreamWorks Animation when it bought a 24.5 percent stake at a $650 million valuation.

  6. 6
    10

    Univision/Gawker Media

    The Spanish-language broadcaster renamed Nick Denton’s company the Gizmodo Media Group after acquiring it for $135 million out of bankruptcy. Plans seem to be a roll-up of its digital properties, which include Fusion.

  7. 7
    10

    Discovery/Group Nine

    The TV conglom invested $100 million for a minority stake at a valuation said to be about $550 million in a deal that rolled up Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Discovery’s Seeker.

  8. 8
    10

    Warner Bros./Machinima

    The investor in the gaming-focused video network let its option expire but ended up buying the company anyway at a valuation of less than $100 million.

  9. 9
    10

    AMC Networks/RLJ Entertainment

    The cable giant invested $65 million in BET founder Robert Johnson’s digital company, which operates Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel.

  10. 10
    10

    Turner/Refinery29

    The digital women’s lifestyle brand raised $45 million from a group of investors led by Turner, which also agreed to develop digital and TV content.

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