Recently NBC made an investment in Vox Media for $200 million -- and looks to do the same with BuzzFeed at around the same dollar levels. Last year, A+E Networks took a 10% stake in Vice Media for $250 million. And HBO will start up a daily Vice Media news show soon.
Perhaps the biggest deal recently was Walt Disney buying YouTube content provider Maker Studios for $1 billion earlier this year. Disney, already among the top content producers in the world, sought the promise of niche digital video.
Some view content deals like this as big companies starting up a farm team or a minor league of sorts. Big media needs to keep tabs on upcoming talent.
A decade or so ago, you might have found established media companies looking to buy up/start cable networks -- because that’s where the growth areas were, if not the media talent itself. Today, not so much.
Media companies like NBCUniversal have over a dozen networks with associated Web content. But traditional media companies need more research and development and out-of-the-box thinking.
So what about a company like Viacom, which skews to a younger audience with networks like MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon? Could they use some new digital-inspired infusion in its ranks?
Analyst Gil Simon, chief investment officer of Apex Capital, talking on CNBC, said he believes it is too late for some companies. He said rising fortunes at Netflix will come at the expense of some older media companies -- like that of Viacom. His children have tablets and typically head right to Netflix when starting up.
Still, any media companies continue to seek those promising upstarts from the-minor-league rookies. They’ll need to.