It’s been a busy week for London-based multi-channel network Base79. Last Friday, the MCN announced that it had acquired kid-centric media firm Kabillion, and now The Guardian reports that Base79 has itself been acquired by its UK-based rival Rightster. The deal is said to be worth £25 million (approximately $42.79 million) but could double to £50 million ($85.59 million) if Base79 is able to hit some performance-based goals within the first year.
Both companies are in the business of managing rights for media properties and specialize in managing and monetizing YouTube channels. By purchasing Base79, Rightster will acquire the MCN’s impressive network of media partnerships, which includes Kabillion, NBC Universal, World of Wonder, and The Jim Henson Company. Rightster, meanwhile, recently inked a partnership with the Scripps Network.
In a separate but related deal, Rightster also acquired the viral video licensing firm Viral Spiral for £4.1 million ($7.02 million) The two companies recently teamed up to create Digital Yoga Network, a boutique MCN focusing on yoga content. By their own estimation, the recent acquisitions will allegedly make Rightster the fourth largest multi-channel network in the North America and the largest operating outside of the United States.
This latest acquisition deal is the latest instance of a growing trend of consolidation in the world of MCNs. Though they have been described as the media companies of the future, independent multi-channel networks are becoming increasingly hard to find. Many of the largest, like Maker Studios, AwesomenessTV, Collective Digital Studios, and Revision3 have been scooped up by larger media brands looking to buy their way into the online video space. Others like Big Frame and now Base79 have been acquired by larger and more diversified networks looking to capture their specific expertise or their portfolio of partnerships.
Despite selling for sometimes massive price tags, the world of MCNs is becoming increasingly narrow. Consolidation is usually a sign that a bubble has burst. Are we looking at the end of multi-channel networks, or just the next stage in their evolution? It’s true that many MCNs have been acquired by larger companies, but the online video space they serve is still growing fast. These acquisitions may turn out to be infiltrations, with digital studios leading their parent companies into the future.