This is NBCUniversal’s second major digital media investment this month, following last week’s purchase of a $200 million equity stake in Vox Media. The Comcast-owned entertainment company’s $200 million stake in BuzzFeed gives it entree into one of the Internet’s most popular, and often controversial, news sites.
This morning’s announcement says that NBCU and BuzzFeed will “explore strategic partnerships across both organizations in the coming months.”
With about 200 million monthly unique visitors and 1.5 billion monthly video views, “BuzzFeed has built an exceptional global company that harmonizes technology, data and superior editorial abilities to create and share content in innovative ways,” NBCU chief Steve Burke says. “They reach a massive, loyal audience and have proven to be among the most creative, popular and influential new media players. We are pleased to be making this investment and for our companies to partner and work together.”
BuzzFeed Executive Chairman Kenneth Lerer says the companies “both have a lot to offer the other,” including possible collaborations on “television content, movies, the Olympics, and joint partnerships with ad agencies and brands.”
In late July, as word about NBCU’s potential interest in BuzzFeed spread, Wunderlich Securities’ Matthew Harrigan said that the digital enterprises’ “new focus on higher ad price video makes involvement with Comcast particularly attractive for both companies. The engagement could provide insight on new advertising models, and certainly exemplified the desirability of having NBCUniversal as a complement to the cable communications business.”
The collaboration may require adjustments in the companies’ cultures. Early this year BuzzFeed deleted posts seen as critical of an advertiser and a business partner, but restored them when web sites Gawker and Guido Fawkes reported what happened. Editor Ben Smith later apologized, in a note to the staff, saying that he overreacted to “questions we’ve been dealing with about the place of personal opinion pieces on our site.”
Lerer and another co-creator of The Huffington Post, Jonah Peretti, created BuzzFeed in 2006.
Peretti says in a blog post this morning that the NBCU investment — and other new deals including one with Yahoo Japan to launch BuzzFeed Japan — “assure BuzzFeed’s continued editorial and creative independence.” That should enable his company “to grow and invest without pressure to chase short-term revenue or rush an IPO. Our independence and a long-term focus align us with our readers and viewers and help us deliver the best possible service for our audience.”