Discovery Communications just raised its bet on digital media with an agreement to pay $100 million for a minority stake in a new holding company — Group Nine Media — that it says will be Facebook’s top video news publisher and among the five largest U.S.-based “digital first” media companies.
Its properties include Thrillist Media Group, NowThis Media, The Dodo and Discovery’s Seeker digital network plus its SourceFed Studios production operation.
Discovery will have an option to buy a controlling stake “in the future,” the partners say. The cable programmer also has a commercial agreement with Group Nine to help advertisers reach audiences via linear TV, digital, social and live events.
Thrillist’s Ben Lerer is stepping up to CEO of Group Nine.
The enterprise starts with “tremendous brands, reach and scale,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav says. It will have “expertise in data analytics technology and global reach” enabling it to attract “young passionate enthusiasts that advertisers want to reach.”
Group Nine will use Discovery’s cash to to fund its growth, targeting sales, branded content, and new vertical launches.
Lerer says that Group Nine’s brands will “remain independent and build our own future” while working with Discovery. By collaborating “we will have more influence; we will have better data and insights; we will be better partners to our advertisers; and most importantly, we will be substantial enough to make a real difference and stay ahead of the market.”
Thrillist’s sales and content unit, The CoLab will The Dodo and Seeker’s NowThis Studios.
They will create a centralized department creating long-form video digital, on-demand, and traditional TV.
Berlin-based publisher Axel Springer will be Group Nine’s second largest shareholder, with a seat on its board.
The new agreement continues Discovery’s effort to be a major player in digital. In 2012 it bought digital network Revision3. The following year it added Philip DeFranco’s DeFranco Creative online video channels and ventures. Discovery also led funding rounds for The Dodo.
All will be part of Group Nine.