StyleHaul could be the next hot multichannel network to get snapped up by a big media company.
Over the past several weeks, the femme-focused style and beauty YouTube MCN has been approached about a potential acquisition by suitors including Amazon, 21st Century Fox, Hearst and Condé Nast Publications, according to multiple sources, who indicate the sale process is being handled by Guggenheim Partners.
StyleHaul declined to comment. “We do not comment on rumors and speculation,” a spokeswoman for the MCN said. Reps for Fox, Hearst, Condé Nast and Guggenheim declined to comment; Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
Sources said both Hearst and 21st Century Fox had preliminary talks with StyleHaul about a deal but that those did not progress. The status of StyleHaul’s negotiations with Amazon and Condé Nast are unclear, as is StyleHaul’s asking price range. “These guys (StyleHaul) are still early in their (sale) process,” said a media exec with knowledge of the discussions.
Founded in 2011, StyleHaul has raised $17 million in funding from RTL Group (parent company of FremantleMedia), Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (which owns a majority stake in RTL) and venture-capital firm RezVen Partners.
L.A.-based StyleHaul boasts a large audience in the coveted demo of teen girls and young women. The company’s network comprises 4,500-plus channels on YouTube, which collectively have more than 175 million subscribers (and more than 60 million unique monthly viewers). The MCN’s YouTube creator partners, hailing from 62 countries, include iJustine, Zoella, bubzbeauty and JLovesMac1.
Last year, the MCN landed a pact with FremantleMedia North America to jointly launch up to 10 scripted and unscripted original series over the next two years. The first under that deal was talk show “The Crew,” featuring four young male YouTubers, which debuted in January.
Earlier this year, StyleHaul lured Mia Goldwyn, VP of biz dev at Paramount Pictures’ digital division, to lead its original programming efforts as the company’s chief content officer. Her first deal: landing digital rights to “Web Therapy,” the Lisa Kudrow comedy series entering its fifth season that also has a TV window on Showtime.
Traditional media companies have become increasingly interested in buying or investing in fast-growing MCNs like StyleHaul, seeing them as a bridge to the next generation of entertainment consumers. Disney’s purchase this spring of Maker Studios, in a deal worth up to $950 million, set off a renewed rush to acquire or team with fledgling digital-video producers.
Both Hearst and Condé Nast have recently launched digital-video properties building off their lifestyle brands and incorporating original content — and StyleHaul would fit nicely into those plans. Fox presumably was interested in the MCN as part of its larger digital-media strategy. Amazon, meanwhile, could be interested in incorporating StyleHaul’s content into its short-form video clips library, which is engineered to sell products on the e-commerce site.
StyleHaul was founded by its president and CEO, Stephanie Horbaczewski, along with Allen and Aaron DeBevoise, who have launched other MCNs based on varying content verticals including Machinima and DanceOn.