Hearst clicks with UGO

Conglom acquires online media co.

Hearst is acquiring young male-targeted online media company UGO Networks as the first step in a bid to reach a new demo on the Net.

Financial details were not disclosed.

UGO, which focuses on videogames, movies, scantily clad women and other topics of interest for its target demo, reaches about 28 million users worldwide each month. It makes all of its revenue through advertising.

It was one of the few remaining independent entertainment websites not picked up during the Internet acquisition binge of the past two years. Netco had been looked at by several major media players, but ended up making a deal with Hearst, where it will be the mini-conglom’s biggest online brand.

Hearst, which was historically known for its collection of newspapers and magazines, has invested in several major Netcos, including video provider Brightcove and music service Pandora. (It was also a major stakeholder in iVillage until the women’s site was acquired by NBC U last year.)

News underscores how even traditional media companies are joining the frenzy to snap up digital properties, even buying sites whose demos diverge from its core audience.

Execs said that the acquisition will allow Hearst — which also owns stakes in ESPN, Lifetime and the A&E nets — to target a new audience. “The acquisition of UGO allows us to pursue a new demographic that frankly is not readily available to many of our traditional media properties,” said Kenneth Bronfin, prexy of Hearst Interactive Media.

Bronfin said the company would look to acquire other male-skewing entertainment sites and integrate them with UGO, which will operate as a stand-alone site from the other Hearst digital properties.

And despite Hearst’s ownership of men’s mags like Esquire, Bronfin said, “There will be points of contact” with other properties but that “it’s not our intention to mesh it with any of our other sites.”

The two companies will explore opportunities to integrate content and ad sales where possible, but UGO is expected to operate largely independently under current CEO J. Moses.

“Having our brand be the lead brand here is worth a lot to us,” Moses said of the decision to be acquired by Hearst. “This business is now in a very serious period of maturation and consolidation. We need to invest and Hearst wants us to.”

Moses said that UGO will be focusing especially on adding more video and user-generated content in the coming months.

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