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Fan-Fueled Site Movie Pilot Raises $16 Million, Plots Move Into Video Games

Movie Pilot, a startup geared around fan-generated Hollywood coverage aimed at millennials, has raised $16 million in Series B funding led by French digital publishing conglomerate Webedia.

With the round, which brings Movie Pilot to $23 million raised to date, the company plans to expand into gaming content and boost video production. Movie Pilot’s previous investors, led by Deutsche Telekom’s T-Venture, also participated in the round.

The U.S. version of Movie Pilot, which originally started in Germany, launched in 2013. Movie Pilot claims to have 25 million unique monthly visitors (15 million of those in the U.S.), with traffic largely driven through nearly 30 million followers across multiple Facebook channels.

The company faces a slew of competitors, ranging from movie-focused sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to general-interest digital publishers like BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Vice that also target younger audiences. (Disclosure: Movie Pilot provides a weekly analysis of social-media data about movie buzz to Variety.)

Movie Pilot has two key differentiators, said co-founder and CEO Tobias Bauckhage. First, it concentrates on the “anticipation phase” of a movie or TV show launch – from the moment there’s a rumor of a project in the works up to the point it’s first released. “That’s an underserved fanbase,” he said.

Second, the site is “like Medium.com for fans,” with some 15,000 registered contributors who write articles and produce videos in exchange for access to red-carpet premieres and other perks. “We think of ourselves as a huge fanzine,” Bauckhage said. Movie Pilot recently started a revenue-sharing program for its most popular fan contributors.

Movie Pilot clients have included 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lionsgate and Focus Features.

The latest funding round gives Movie Pilot a post-money valuation of about $50 million, according to Bauckhage. Webedia acquired the German version of the site last year for $20 million.

Movie Pilot will use the funding to launch coverage of video games, using the same fan-generated model. In addition, the startup plans to expand its branded-video division. According to Bauckhage, the company currently generates more than 40 million monthly video views on Facebook.

Movie Pilot has about 60 employees at its headquarters in Venice, Calif., and an office in Berlin.

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