AOL’s Moviefone to End Partnership With Whalerock

AOL is taking all operations of Moviefone back in-house, with its two-and-a-half-year partnership with Whalerock Industries set to end May 31.

AOL announced the deal in October 2013 with media firm Whalerock (then called BermanBraun) to relaunch the Moviefone website and apps to expand its entertainment content and features.

“We’ve had a good run with Whalerock, but now we feel it’s a better home for Moviefone to be back in the stack with the rest of the properties we have,” Jimmy Maymann, exec VP and president of AOL Content & Consumer Brands, said in an interview.

AOL’s focus for Moviefone now is to double down on mobile, expand social reach and invest in more original video content, both internally and via pacts with video-production companies, said Maymann, who before assuming his current role last summer was CEO of Huffington Post.

About 77% of Moviefone’s users use mobile devices at least once a month, which is a higher percentage than any other AOL brand. Through the end of February, Moviefone had generated approximately 90 million cross-platform video views, nearly seven times a year earlier.

Moviefone sells movie tickets through a pact with NBCUniversal’s Fandango. But Moviefone is increasingly competing for the attention of movie fans with Fandango, which recently acquired Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes from Warner Bros.

In January 2016, Moviefone.com had 7.1 million unique visitors across all platforms, up 13% year over year, according to comScore. Fandango says that with its M-Go, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes acquisitions, it will have a reach of more than 63 million unique visitors per month.

AOL acquired Moviefone, which launched in 1989, for $388 million in 1999. In 2014, the company took Moviefone’s famous dial-up phone lines out of commission (and the original voice of Mr. Moviefone, co-founder Russ Leatherman, left in 2013). Last year, Verizon bought AOL in a $4.4 billion deal.

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