It’s been bleak for digital media. Headlines blare about fire sales of companies like Mic and Gawker, layoffs at companies like HuffPost and Vice, and consolidation rumors. The anticipated digital advertising boom hasn’t materialized, as most of the revenue is going to Facebook and Google and media companies have struggled to diversify their revenue with things like events, commerce, and subscriptions.
Still, it’s not all gloom and doom. Jon Steinberg’s streaming business news service Cheddar sold for a healthy $200 million to cable company Altice USA, underscoring the value of live news for millennials.
Viacom plunked down $340 million for Pluto TV, signaling a big market for ad-supported streaming TV. Spotify paid $230 million for podcast company Gimlet Media, showing there’s value in media that commands people’s undivided attention.
And investors are pouring money into media companies they think will survive and thrive the upheaval. Some, like Girlboss Media, are tapping into people’s hunger for face-to-face community. Others, like The Athletic, are getting sports fans to pay for news with in-depth local and national coverage by established writers.
Business Insider asked more than 10 investors which media startups they think will blow up this year and why (most picked companies they’ve invested in).
Here are their picks, in alphabetical order:
Company: The Athletic
Recommended by: Daniel Gulati, managing director, Comcast Ventures
What it does: Subscription-based online sports media company founded in 2016.
Why it’s hot: "The model is a win-win for writers and fans: Best in class subscriber retention, and a virtuous growth cycle of greater demand scale leading to more quality content, attracting more subscribers," Gulati said. "The bundle is growing to include podcasts, video and new sports, expanding the subscriber universe and delivering more value with each login."
BallerTV via YouTube
Recommended by: Andy Johns, partner at Unusual Ventures
What it does: Started in 2016, BallerTV is a live and on-demand streaming service where families can watch their kids’ sporting events. The company picked up Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade as an ambassador and investor this year.
Why it’s hot: "What BallerTV has figured out from a technology and logistics standpoint is truly impressive," Johns said. "They’re already live streaming and recording hundreds of thousands of games a year, making amateur sports footage broadly available for the first time. In the long run, I would expect BallerTV to be a top destination to see footage of amateur athletes, help coaches and scouts find the next great player they want to recruit, and build an amateur sports media empire on top of it to bring a modern media approach to an industry that is still exclusively covered by the local newspaper."
Recommended by: Christie George, president, New Media Ventures
What it does: Started in 2014, Blavity is an LA-based media and events company aimed at black millennials.
Why it’s hot: "Black millennials have long been underserved by traditional media," George said. "Blavity deeply understands its audience and has built a brand that audience just loves. From day one, the company has been focused on diversified revenue, protecting them from market shifts and the ups and downs of what new features or platforms are popular at the moment."
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