Kevin Dowd October 21, 2016
Fourteen months after providing $200 million to BuzzFeed in what was by far the largest funding to date for the virality-chasing news & entertainment site, NBCUniversal has reportedly doubled down on its investment in the purported future of digital media. The new $200 million funding is believed to value BuzzFeed at about $1.7 billion, a marginal increase over the $1.6 billion valuation generated by NBCU’s earlier backing.
Apparently, the media conglomerate wasn’t put off by reports in April that BuzzFeed missed its revenue targets last year and was slashing its goal for 2016. NBCU is instead likely smitten with BuzzFeed’s tantalizing audience numbers, including nearly 200 million unique global visitors in the past 30 days, per Quantcast. The site most widely known for its addictive listicles (“You’ll never believe No. 13!") is expanding rapidly into hard news and video. It’s also still in the process of trying to monetize some of its unique content—like the day earlier this year when 800,000 people tuned in to watch two BuzzFeed employees wrap rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded.
Between 2008 and 2014, Buzzfeed raised just shy of $100 million in venture funding from firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and SoftBank Capital. Founder Jonah Peretti (brother of comedian Chelsea Peretti) was also a co-founder of The Huffington Post, which was acquired by AOL for $315 million in 2011.
BuzzFeed isn’t NBCU’s only bet in the nascent digital media space. Last August—around the same time as its prior BuzzFeed backing—the company made a $200 million investment in Vox Media at a valuation of just over $1 billion, bringing the company’s total funding to about $325 million. Another major competitor in the space is Vice Media, which has raised some $800 million in total funding, including a $500 million round in September 2014 from Technology Crossover Ventures and the A&E television network and a more-recent $200 million investment from Disney.