Disney Invests More in Interactive-Content Startup Playbuzz as Part of $35 Million Round

Playbuzz, which develops tools for creating interactive media and distributes branded content, has raised $35 million in Series C funding.

The round was led by Viola Growth with participation from existing investors including Disney, Saban Ventures, 83North, Carmel Ventures, Firstime and Oded Vardi. The funding brings New York-based Playbuzz to a total of $66 million raised to date.

Disney previously participated in Playbuzz’s $15 million round in March 2016, led by Saban Ventures, and uses Playbuzz across several of its divisions including ESPN, ABC and ABC News. “With the biggest, most innovative video company by our side, that helps our credibility,” said Shaul Olmert, co-founder and CEO of Playbuzz (pictured above).

The Playbuzz platform is used by about 13,000 online publishers. The startup’s tools let them create “engaging, visually stunning editorial content” incorporating video and other interactive elements without any design or development expertise, according to Olmert.

Publishing clients include VH1, Huffington Post, NBC and Sky Sports. According to Playbuzz, content created with its platform sees average user sessions of 2-4 minutes, compared with an average of 15 seconds for other content, and has much higher completion rates. “We optimize the content and provide you guidelines for content that is likely to be most successful,” said Olmert.

With the new funding, Playbuzz plans to expand its focus on branded content. The company sells native-ad campaigns to top brands, which have included Universal Studios, Netflix, Warner Bros., Unilever and the New York Lottery, and distributes them across a network of tens of thousands of publishers.

Olmert, who previously worked at MTV Networks as VP of digital products, said Playbuzz’s primary competitors are BuzzFeed and Vice: “They’re the usual suspects we are competing against for ad budgets.”

Founded in 2012, Playbuzz has 170 employees at offices in New York, Tel Aviv, London, Hamburg, São Paulo, Moscow and L.A.

On the senior management front, earlier this year Playbuzz tapped Steve Goldstein, previously head of sales and marketing at ZUUS Media and former VP of digital ad sales at BET, as head of North American sales. Last year, it hired Jane Loring as VP of European brand partnerships; previously, she was GM at lifestyle-content company Mode Media, which shut down after filing for bankruptcy last year.

With the latest round of funding, Viola Growth founder and general partner Harel Beit-On has joined Playbuzz’s board.

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