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Kevin Mayer, the former Walt Disney Co. streaming chief and TikTok CEO who also serves as chairman of global sports streamer DAZN Group, on Wednesday lauded Reese Witherspoon for having “her finger on the pulse of her audience.”
Speaking at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, he said that “brands are only meaningful when they attach emotionally to a certain audience, and she has next-generation women … firmly in mind. … I love what she is doing. It’s an underserved audience.”
A so far unnamed media company led by Mayer and former Walt Disney CFO Tom Staggs recently acquired Hello Sunshine, the company founded by Witherspoon. The deal, which is backed by private equity giant Blackstone, values Hello Sunshine at $900 million.
Mayer said on Wednesday that Hello Sunshine is a consumer brand and other companies his firm is looking at buying will also be such brands. “But our company will probably not end up being a consumer brand, but we want to name it something that [fits its] mission and makes sense and is fun and all that stuff,” Mayer explained.
Asked about the bigger goal, Mayer spoke of the firm’s “next-generation” focus. “The bond between creators and their followers is very emotional and deep and it can be mined for a lot of opportunity,” he said. “So, I like the idea of taking television and movie product and extending that relationship into social media and trying to engender new revenue streams.” He said the focus was on “category-defining businesses and brands” and the intersection between content, commerce and community, which he calls the 3Cs.
Mayer shared that the Hello Sunshine team mentioned that same focus on the 3Cs on the first slide in their first meeting, which “was the first indicator that we were onto something.”
Mayer said on Wednesday that he has his eye on other companies, but said he wasn’t ready to unveil any further deals. (On Sept. 13, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Mayer’s untitled firm was in talks with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Inc. on a potential acquisition.)
Among the potential targets he has also been reported to have eyed are the likes of Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content and Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment.
Sharing some color from his past deal and other experience, he called Rupert Murdoch a “great negotiator,” adding that he “drove a hard bargain” when Disney offered to acquire large parts of the mogul’s 21st Century Fox. “I have never spoken to Donald Trump,” he also said when quizzed about his resignation as CEO of TikTok last summer amid the threat of a ban of the popular social media app.
Asked if the description of DAZN as “the Netflix of sports” bothers him, Mayer said, “there are worse things than being called the Netflix of anything,” because “Netflix has been a massive success.” He added that he uses the streamer “a lot,” and co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos are “good friends of mine.”
The appointment of Mayer in March was seen as a sign that DAZN remained committed to becoming a viable player in the streaming sports market despite the pandemic impacting its business over the past year.
He succeeded former ESPN president John Skipper, who left the post to launch Meadowlark Media with radio host Dan Le Batard. Skipper remained on DAZN’s board. DAZN also said it would invest in and collaborate with Meadowlark on programming.
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