NBCUniversal Doubles Down on its Investment in BuzzFeed

A year after making its first $200 million investment in BuzzFeed, Comcast’s NBCUniversal is nearing a final deal to double down on their bet in the social news and entertainment company. According to report by Recode, NBCUniversal invested another $200 million in BuzzFeed at the end of October. The deal comes at a time when the TV giant is attempting to reach younger audiences, and according to sources close to the deal, NBC believes BuzzFeed can help it with this mission.

This addition to NBC’s total venture brings the BuzzFeed’s total worth to a staggering $1.7 billion. This number sets the company’s worth modestly above Gannett’s $1.2 billion estimate and Vox Media’s $1 billion. BuzzFeed amidst the kings of publishing like The New York Times, worth $1.8 billion.

Investors and experts have deduced that with a larger demand for video content, print and broadcast companies are increasingly splitting attention into separate traditional editorial and video sectors. BuzzFeed is doing just that with a company-wide reorganization splitting the company into BuzzFeed News and BuzzFeed Entertainment Group (BFEG), which was announced in late August. BuzzFeed CEO Joseph Peretti dismissed any speculation that this move was countering recent reports that his company missed its projected revenue targets, in a memo sent to the staff:

Having a single “video department” in 2016 makes about as much sense as having a “mobile department”. Instead, it will be something we expand and embed across the organization. As digital video becomes ubiquitous, every major initiative at BuzzFeed around the world will find an expression as video, just like everything we do works on mobile and social platforms. Instead of organizing around a format or technology, we will organize our work to take full advantage of many formats and technologies.

BuzzFeed’s division into news and multimedia “sectors,” coupled with yet another colossal investment from NBC, comes as print media news fades into the background and video content steps into the spotlight. Additionally, BuzzFeed’s success represents the increasing popularity of social-driven visual content popular with younger audiences. Most of BuzzFeed’s video shares and views have come almost exclusively from Facebook. The social media platform itself recently passed 1.18 billion users, with a viewer-base with shorter attention spans and younger ages.

BuzzFeed has reigned in audiences like those on Facebook with a plethora of videos and interactive content to keep viewers hooked, ranging from more whimsical tests and quizzes that guess at your least favorite pizza topping. These all attract BuzzFeed’s target audience of millennials and, while NBC has already benefitted from this partnership as well, Peretti believes strengthening the bond between the two companies will open up a larger audience for NBC.

There are already traces of the partnership with NBC on BuzzFeed’s site, such as sponsored content benefitting traffic for NBC’s televised singing competition, “The Voice.” However, BuzzFeed is no stranger to sponsored content, and it’s not exclusive to NBC. In almost all of the sections on BuzzFeed’s website, “native” advertising infiltrates web content. Most often, this sponsored content has something to do with a current promotion that a specific company is trying to publicize to a younger audience, and past partners have included HBO, Spotify, Intel, and more.

Yet, this is not to say the NBC/BuzzFeed partnership is not unique in its own right. BuzzFeed had access to coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games because NBC won the exclusive broadcast rights for the events in the most expensive television rights deal in history. BuzzFeed gained total editorial access to NBC’s partnership with Snapchat during the games and produced a custom “Discover” section and several “Stories” on the platform which garnered 2.2 billion views in total. Although NBC claimed the coverage was targeted to full audiences, younger audiences were markedly more engaged with the content.

Given the success of the pairing between NBC and BuzzFeed, it may be possible that other companies in the broadcasting industry will follow suit in romancing entertainment and technology counterparts. Along with opening its wallets up for BuzzFeed, NBCU also invested $200 million in Vox Media last year in similar hopes of collaborating on projects to kick-start NBCU’s online reach.

These kinds of partnerships are sure to continue to continue a number of digitally-focused trends in content creation and distribution. Not only will similar partnerships benefit companies akin to NBCU and BuzzFeed in engaging broader, younger audiences, but they will also aid in the production of innovative video content. With the new deal between NBCU and BuzzFeed, it becomes even clearer that partnerships between creators and distributors are evolving, and the blurring boundaries between ever-evolving media types are changing traditional formats of journalism.

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