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U.K. Broadcaster ITV Invests in Danny Zappin’s Zealot Networks

LONDON – U.K. broadcaster ITV has invested an undisclosed amount in Zealot Networks, the California-based digital-media studio formed by Danny Zappin, who resigned as CEO of YouTube multichannel network Maker Studios in 2013 and unsuccessfully tried to block a shareholder vote on Disney’s acquisition of the company he co-founded.

The ITV deal values Zealot at more than $100 million, according to the startup. In August, Zappin announced he had raised $25 million from former Maker execs and talent to create Zealot. To date, Zealot has raised more than $30 million, which suggests that ITV’s stake is worth around $5 million. The ITV coin will support “the building out of Zealot’s digital studio capability and strategic M&A activity,” Zealot said.

Zappin, who is president and CEO of Zealot, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday: “The plan is really to build a media company of the future, and all the components that are key to that. That will include brand relationships and agencies, working with digital influencers, building out new partnerships, acquiring talent and talent management, etc. There will be also be a studio component. All these things will feed each other.”

Four days ago, Zealot acquired a majority stake in content-licensing company AudioMicro, whose brands include YouTube music-licensing business AdRev.

Commenting on the ITV deal, Zappin said Monday: “ITV’s investment provides a foothold in Europe and lays the groundwork for Zealot’s global expansion. The ITV relationship also gives us upstream opportunities for IP/content to distribute across traditional and digital media platforms.”

Kevin Lygo, managing director of ITV Studios, added: “Danny Zappin has been at the forefront of digital media in the U.S. for some time, and it’s fantastic to be part of this exciting new venture. A key part of ITV’s strategy is to exploit the increasing global demand for quality content across a range of platforms, which closely aligns with Zealot’s own ambitions to not only distribute content across its own sites, but also to third-party platforms such as YouTube, Vine and Instagram.”

Under the terms of the deal, ITV will join the Zealot board of directors.

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