Roundup: The 6 biggest YouTube network acquisitions (so far)

If you’re a major media company and you’re interested in buying a big YouTube network, you better hurry up.

German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 has acquired a 75 percent majority stake in Collective Digital Studio after previously owning 20 percent of the business. The deal follows a steady stream of mergers between the worlds of old and new media, which kicked off in earnest with Disney’s acquisition of Maker Studios in March 2014.

The flurry of activity — almost all of it within the past 15 months — is happening as traditional media scrambles to adapt to an increasingly digital video world. “Media giants, like most, are new to the millennial-driven, mobile-first new world order of video. That expertise is not in their DNA,” said Peter Csathy, CEO of Manatt Digital Media. “[They have] smartly decided that they would rather buy than build in order to gain immediate expertise and scale.”

Here’s who they’ve bought so far:

Collective Digital Studio: Acquired by ProSiebenSat.1 in July 2015 for $83 million (for 75 percent stake).
Unlike other big MCNs, which aggregate thousands of channels across YouTube, CDS manages around 900 channels. The company is known for producing long-form programming with its talent, including Web series like “Video Game High School,” TV shows like “Epic Meal Empire” and films like “Fred.”

Following the acquisition, ProSieben said it plans to merge the company with its European MCN Studio71. The new company, called Collective Studio71, will receive $83 million from ProSieben to grow in the US, Europe and other English-speaking markets. It will also manage ProSieben’s digital distribution business across in-house and third-party video platforms.


Maker Studios: Acquired by Disney in March 2014 for $500 million (plus $450 million in performance-based incentives).
For Disney, Maker’s 55,000 channels and more than 650 million subscribers on YouTube make it a marketing vehicle to reach a large number of young people who are not watching as much TV content as they used to. In support of that, Maker recently announced deals with Marvel, ESPN and ABC to produce new original content tied to their respective intellectual properties. Maker, meanwhile, gets access to new distribution partners. For instance, it has two channels on Web-TV service Sling TV thanks to a carriage deal between Disney and Dish Network.

Fullscreen: Acquired by Otter Media in September 2014 (for a majority stake). 
Like Maker, Fullscreen’s network has a lot of creators — 70,000, reaching more than 600 million subscribers and 5 billion views per month. Since its acquisition by Otter Media, an OTT video venture from The Chernin Group and AT&T, Fullscreen has pivoted to focus more on producing premium original short- and long-form programming. It also has an off-YouTube platform in the works, but that rumor has been around for well over a year by now with nothing to show.

StyleHaul: Acquired by RTL Group in November 2014 for $107 million (for 93.6 percent stake).
Beauty is one of the largest categories on YouTube accounting for 8.5 percent of all videos on the site, according to YouTube marketing and data provider Pixability. StyleHaul, with more than 6,000 creators averaging 1.2 billion views per month, commands a lot of that viewership. While it’s a massive audience, the nature of beauty videos on YouTube (vlogs) has made branded content more important to StyleHaul’s business than pre-roll ads.

BroadbandTV: Acquired by RTL Group in June 2013 for $36 million (for a 51 percent stake).
BroadbandTV is another YouTube giant, with 34,000 partners and 4.8 billion views per month. In addition to its creator business, the company also provides YouTube channel management, audience development and monetization services for media companies and brands. Clients in this area include the NBA, Sony Pictures and FremantleMedia.

RTL Group, itself part of the larger Bertelsmann portfolio, is pretty bullish on online video. The company also owns SpotXchange, and recently launched an in-house division to explore different ways its video investments can work together as well as uncover new business and investment opportunities in video.

AwesomenessTV: Acquired by DreamWorks Animation in May 2013 for $33 million (plus incentives).
Before Maker and Disney, there was AwesomenessTV and DreamWorks Animation, which acquired the teen- and tween-centric YouTube network in 2013. Today, AwesomenessTV’s business includes separate divisions dedicated to talent management, feature films, commerce and of course, its YouTube talent/ad network. It’s a major reason why Hearst ponied up $81.25 million last December for a 25 percent stake in the company.

So, who’s left?
Well, there are a few major MCNs still on the market, including Machinima, Tastemade, Defy Media, Kin Community and Whistle Sports. But Machinima counts Warner Bros. as a major investor, Tastemade has Scripps Networks Interactive, Defy has Viacom, Kin has Corus Entertainment, and Whistle Sports has a group that includes European pay-TV giants Liberty Global and Sky.

“All of them already have significant strategic media companies invested in them — and as we have seen with ProSieben and CDS — that frequently leads to eventual acquisition,” said Csathy.

Beyond them, you have to go international, where there are many more MCNs, including Diagonal View (U.K.), BuzzMyVideos (U.K.), Mediakraft (Germany) and Culture Machine (India), but with relatively smaller audiences.

“It’s still a very dynamic market,” said Chris Dorr, executive director of the Global Online Video Association, an advocacy group working on behalf of many of the major MCNs. “New entrants will emerge.”

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