Defy Media Shutters, Lays Off Staff

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Defy president Keith Richman

"Unfortunately, market conditions got in the way of us completing our mission," a company spokeswoman said in a statement. "Our main focus right now is to find homes for these great brands and people so that they can continue to thrill and delight their millions of viewers with as little interruption as possible."

Defy Media is shutting down.

The digital media company behind such brands as Smosh and Clevver ceased operations on Tuesday, a company spokeswoman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. A small team of executives has remained with the company to try to sell off its brands. 

"Regretfully, Defy Media has ceased operations today," reads the full statement. "We are extremely proud of what we accomplished here at Defy and in particular want to thank all the employees who worked here. We deeply regret the impact that this has had on them today. These are some of the best people in the world in creating digital programming and building audiences around it. Without them, brands like Clevver, Smosh, and AweMe could not have built up over 75 million YouTube subscribers and 120mm social media followers. Unfortunately, market conditions got in the way of us completing our mission. Our main focus right now is to find homes for these great brands and people so that they can continue to thrill and delight their millions of viewers with as little interruption as possible."

On Tuesday morning, Defy informed staff via email, a copy of which THR obtained, that its primary office in Beverly Hills would shutter by Jan. 2 and that all staff would be laid off as a result of the closure. Tubefilter, which was first to report that the Beverly Hills office would close, said that that about 80 employees would be impacted by the cuts. 

While the majority of Defy's creative and production staff, including president Keith Richman, worked out of Beverly Hills, Defy also operated a corporate office in New York, where CEO Matthew Diamond was based. 

Defy, which was formed in 2013 through the merger of Break Media and Alloy Digital, benefited for several years from the digital media boom. It counts Lionsgate, Viacom and ABS Capital as investors and, in 2016, raised $70 million from Wellington Management Co. But the business has struggled over the last year amid an industrywide downturn. In March, Defy laid off 8 percent of its staff as it closed its programmatic advertising business. 

In July, Defy sold the Screen Junkies entertainment-focused YouTube channel to Fandom, capping off a rocky several months for that brand after the ouster of creator Andy Signore following sexual harassment allegations. 

Among the brands that Defy is still looking to sell is Smosh, which started as a YouTube channel created by Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla and grew into a multimedia property that featured multiple young stars. Padilla left Smosh in summer 2017. On Tuesday evening, Hecox posted a note on Twitter in which he confirmed that the brand was looking for a new home. 

"As some of you may have heard already, our parent company Defy Media is closing its doors," he wrote. "This doesn't mean Smosh is going away. We're already in the process of finding a new home and will update you all as soon as we can. Smosh has been enjoying record numbers lately, and this closure won't stop us. The family that we've worked to build over 13 years is not going away. You guys have given so many of us here at Smosh the best jobs in the world, and we're going to do whatever we can to continue to bring you the same Smoshy goodness that we always have. We hope to have some exciting news to share with you soon, but for now, please give your love to everyone involved at Smosh."

Nov. 6, 5:56 p.m. Updated to include statement from Defy Media.
Nov. 6, 7:28 p.m. Updated to include Ian Hecox's statement about Smosh.