Turner International Invests in Soccer Site Copa90 Owner Bigballs Media

Courtesy of Turner International
Aksel van der Wal, executive vp, digital ventures & innovation at Turner International

The Time Warner unit's recently established Digital Ventures & Innovation Group strikes its first deal.

Time Warner's Turner International unit said Wednesday that its recently established Digital Ventures & Innovation Group has made its first investment, buying an equity stake in London-based digital media sports company Bigballs Media, the parent of soccer content site Copa90.

The price tag and the size of the stake weren't disclosed. 

In 2015, John Malone's Liberty Global  acquired a stake worth $10.7 million (£7 million at the time) in Bigballs, which is also known as a co-producer, with Working Title TV, in Sky 1 and NBC dramedy You, Me and the Apocalypse with Rob Lowe, Jenna Fischer, Megan Mullally and Mathew Baynton. 

Turner’s Digital Ventures & Innovation Group was formed to focus on opportunities for innovation, development and acquisition. It is the largest investor in the financing round, which Bigballs will use for its international expansion, content production and distribution and the enhancement of its data capabilities.

Turner and Bigballs also signed a commercial agreement that will see the two share distribution and content production expertise. The partnership expands on an existing commercial relationship with Turner's digital sports brand Bleacher Report. Copa90 offers soccer features and commentary and targets 16- to 24-year-olds.

Aksel van der Wal, head of Digital Ventures and Innovation, will take a seat on Bigballs' board, and Alex Vargas, COO of Bleacher Report, becomes a board observer.

"Partnering with relevant brands is a core part of our strategy to compete and lead in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape," said van der Wal, executive vp digital ventures and innovation, for Turner International. “We see really exciting opportunities to work with Biggballs in developing creative ways to engage new audiences, in particular expanding our growing touch points with millennials while also offering innovative new platforms for advertisers. It is exactly the kind of forward-looking partnership we hope to establish more of."

Said Tom Thirlwall, CEO of Bigballs: "Our ambition is to be the world’s most influential football media business by the time the 2018 World Cup kicks off and this investment and partnership with Turner is a decisive step towards making that a reality."

The deal is the latest in a series of investments by Turner in the digital space and the first in a company headquartered outside of the U.S. It follows investments in the likes of Refinery29 and Mashable. The company also acquired a majority stake in iStreamPlanet in 2015. Turner has also expanded Bleacher Report and invested more in CNN Digital.

Internationally, it has launched a suite of digital-first destinations and apps for its brands, including CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim.