On Our Radar: Deals we are paying attention to for their impact on industry.
Univision Communications Inc., America’s largest provider of Spanish-language content, has abandoned its plans to expand into English-language markets. On Monday, the New York-based firm sold the Gizmodo Media Group and satirical website The Onion to private equity firm Great Hill Media Group. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the all-equity transaction is reported (tweeted, to be exact, by Recode’s executive editor Peter Kafka) to be just one quarter of the $200 million it had paid for the properties.
In an effort to diversify its holdings, Univision bought the Gizmodo sites at the bankruptcy auction of the Gawker Media Group in 2016. In addition to The Onion and Gizmodo, the sale included well-known media brands Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, and others. When Univision decided to regroup and return to its roots, its English-language media holdings no longer made sense, according to Digiday.
The clash of cultures between the old media broadcaster and the free-wheeling digital native media group could also be another reason for the sale. Great Hill has announced that digital media veteran James Spanfeller will become the chief executive of the new media entity, to be renamed G/O Media Inc. Spanfeller was the former head of Forbes.com and president of consumer magazines at Ziff Davis. He also built the digital media company that featured The Daily Meal and The Active Times, which he successfully sold to Tronc in December 2016.
Spanfeller has said he plans to increase targeted ad sales, develop e-commerce and paid content across each site. In a sign of things to come under the new management that calls itself a “growth-oriented private equity firm, the CEO reportedly told his new staff in an email on Monday: “While editorial independence is critically important, there needs to be a healthy and productive partnership with the business side for the company to be truly successful… Without an audience we have nothing to offer advertisers, eCommerce partners or subscription efforts. And without the revenue from those sources we have no way to fund the content and those who create it that attracts that audience in the first place.”
Frances Katz is a freelance writer focusing on media, culture and technology. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Week, The Washington Post, USA Today and other publications. She lives in Atlanta.