Obama Girl's latest crush: Scannell's startup

Next New Nets buys BarelyPolitical

NEW YORK -- Obama Girl has found a new friend in Herb Scannell, whose online video startup Next New Networks has acquired BarelyPolitical.com, the site behind the viral-video hit.

BarelyPolitical was founded in June by Ben Relles and quickly rose to prominence thanks to the 2008 presidential election sendup, "I Got a Crush on Obama," which has been viewed millions of times and featured on news shows on networks from ABC to al-Jazeera. The site followed up with other politically focused music videos.

"Having BarelyPolitical as part of the group is kind of a feather in the cap," said Scannell, the CEO and co-founder of Next, which runs 14 other niche channels. "We're excited about this as a pretty big slice in the world of micronetworks."

Scannell, former vice chairman of MTV Networks and president of Nickelodeon Networks, declined comment on financial terms of the deal.

Along with the music videos, BarelyPolitical also is starting to present shorter daily videos. A recent one featured a correspondent asking people on the street political questions playing off a clip from "The View" in which Joy Behar referenced Obama Girl. The site will have links to other political humor blogs as well.

BarelyPolitical also has secured a video contribution from comedian Jackie Mason, who originally aired a response to Obama Girl on his YouTube site. A new video from Mason will be on the site next week, Relles said.

Although the site is mainly there to entertain, Relles said he has a larger goal of getting people involved in politics in the run-up to next year's elections. He said the mainstream reaction to Obama Girl made him realize that his videos can have a life in the offline world, and he said Scannell and the team at Next New Networks, which includes board member and former AOL chairman and CEO Jonathan Miller, would be able to help him execute this.

Scannell and Relles see BarelyPolitical as a site that will live beyond the 2008 election. Relles hopes that his site will grow to a brand that is one of the "primary political satire sites on the Web."

"Ben will take this and roll with it and evolve it," Scannell said. "He's thinking three steps ahead and doesn't seem confined by some kind of box."

Relles made a splash this year with "Box in a Box," a satire of the "Saturday Night Live" video "Dick in a Box."

Next New Networks was started this year and features sites focusing on fashion, comic books, cars and other niche subjects. It has backing from Spark Capital, Saban Capital Group and Robert Pittman's Pilot Group, and on Monday it secured distribution through Dailymotion, a Paris-based video-sharing site.