VC firm Andreessen Horowitz invests $50 million in Internet-media company
Are you ready for “Listicle: The Movie”?
BuzzFeed, the Internet-media company best known for its shareable list-based articles, is expanding across multiple vectors — including changing the name of its digital-video division into the grandiose-sounding BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.
The move is part of a broader restructuring by BuzzFeed to expand editorial coverage and international presence, and comes on the heels of a new round of $50 million in funding from venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The latest funding values BuzzFeed at $850 million, the New York Times reported.
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures will encompass “all moving images” — ranging from animated GIFs to short-form video, and from serialized content to full-length movies.
Ze Frank, formerly exec VP of video at BuzzFeed and an online-video pioneer (pictured), will lead the division as president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and will remain based in Los Angeles. The studio will form a Future of Fiction working group to explore the future of long-form, TV and transmedia video. BuzzFeed has enlisted producer Michael Shamberg (“Django Unchained,” “Contagion”) and actor-comedian Jordan Peele (of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele”) as advisers.
BuzzFeed, which may look to work with traditional Hollywood studios on joint projects, wants to greatly expand its digital-video footprint. VC investor Kenneth Lerer, BuzzFeed co-founder and executive chairman, cited video as a cornerstone of the company’s strategic growth plan.
“The future of content companies is crystal clear: mobile, video, social and tech,” Lerer said in a statement. “Expanding BuzzFeed’s business across each of these areas is the key to the future.”
It remains to be seen how big a splash BuzzFeed Motion Pictures can actually make in the biz. Other digital-media firms like AOL and Yahoo have been slowly expanding their original video content to include longer-form, TV-like programming, and services like Hulu and Sony’s Crackle remain active buyers of entertainment originals. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Microsoft recently shifted gears in its strategy to produce premium content, announcing that it would shut down Xbox Entertainment Studios.
In other changes, New York-based BuzzFeed announced it will split its current editorial team into three segments — News, Buzz and Life — to expand content and delineate the differences between the three types of content. All of BuzzFeed’s branded-content offerings for advertisers will be centralized into one group, BuzzFeed Creative.
The company also is creating a distributed division with 20 staffers to create content for social web platforms such as Tumblr, Imgur, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and messaging apps. Finally, BuzzFeed Intl. later this year plans to expand to India, Germany, Mexico and Japan.
According to BuzzFeed, the new company structure will let it incubate — as well as acquire — other companies. “We’re in the midst of a historic shift in the media industry where news is increasingly being distributed on social networks and consumed on mobile devices,” said Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon, who led the investment in BuzzFeed and is joining the board. “We believe BuzzFeed can emerge from this shift as a preeminent media company.”