Big Media Finds Online Vid Nothing To Laugh At, Turner Buys Into Funny Or Die

In what appears to be a trend in the making, large media companies increasingly are investing in or acquiring independent producers of online video content.

Cable TV giant Turner Broadcasting Wednesday struck a strategic partnership with Funny or Die that links the online comedy site’s content with Turner’s TBS and Adult Swim TV properties, along with select Turner digital outlets. Under terms of the deal, Turner will take a 10% stake in Funny or Die, and Turner Digital Sales will also handle all ad sales exclusively for Funny or Die.

The deal marked the second time this month that a big, traditional media company invested in an online video producer, and the third time reports had surfaced about such deals being explored.

Two weeks ago, Discovery Communications acquired the niche-focused Internet video network Revision3. A few days later, Web giant Google began talks to acquire a stake in YouTube video game content creator Machinima.

Executives from both companies touted the partnership’s appeal to advertisers in particular.

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"While we are incredibly excited about how this partnership will catalyze our growth and make Funny Or Die an even better place for comedic talent, we are even more excited about the opportunities this will open up to brands and advertisers," said Dick Glover, president-CEO of Funny Or Die. “Plus, we are instantly gaining an even larger sales staff -- something it would take us years to develop. This is very cool."

“Combined with the powerful reach and content of TBS and Adult Swim, the addition of Funny Or Die provides advertisers opportunities to associate their messages with three top brands that attract young demos and engage consumers across a variety of screens,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports at Turner Broadcasting System.

While Funny or Die will undoubtedly benefit from the reach of Turner’s networks, Turner stands to benefit from Funny or Die’s strong relationships with A-list Hollywood talent and its hard-to-reach young adult audience. The partnership could open the door to a wider range of ad partners for both companies.

This is not the first time that Funny or Die has partnered with a traditional TV network. In 2008, Time Warner’s HBO invested in the company and launched the ongoing series “Funny or Die Presents.” However, because HBO is a premium cable network, the deal did not involve advertising revenue.

According to comScore, Funny or Die averages 16 million uniques per month. The company, started in 2007 by actor Will Ferrell, writer/director Adam McKay and writer Chris Henchy, launched with the viral success “The Landlord,” which has now been viewed more than 80 million times.

Since then, Funny or Die has produced scores of original and branded entertainment videos and series, including the popular “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.”

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