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Defy Media, Digital Studio Behind Smosh, Raises $70 Million and Eyes Shows on Traditional TV

Defy Media, the studio whose brands include the popular Smosh comedy team, has closed a $70 million Series B round of funding led by institutional investor Wellington Management Co.

With the cash infusion, Defy plans to expand programming — in both volume and formats — for its portfolio spanning comedy, lifestyle and gaming. It’s also looking to expand distribution on both traditional TV and emerging content platforms and hire staff to build out its nearly 400-employee ranks.

The new funding included participation from some (but not all) existing investors. Defy Media president Keith Richman declined to identify which backers were in the latest round; he also wouldn’t say what Defy Media’s valuation is with the new funding but said it was an up round (meaning the company’s value increased).

Existing Defy investors include ABS Capital, Lionsgate, Viacom and Zelnick Media Capital. Defy Media was formed in 2013 by the merger of digital studios Alloy Digital and Break Media. At that time, the company raised $15 million in new funding.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for our brands, and we have a secular wind behind us,” Richman said, referring to the fact that digital-video viewing continues to climb.

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Defy is increasingly looking at producing shows for TV networks, Richman said. “The perception was, ‘Oh, those guys produce digital,” he said. “But we want to make content for any device you’re looking at.”

Currently, Defy Media produces 72 original weekly series, representing more than 1,000 hours per month, across brands that include Smosh, Clevver, Screen Junkies, AWE me, Break and Made Man. All told, the company’s programming generates over 800 million video views monthly, reaching 125 million viewers.

As an example of the type of programming Defy is considering expanding, Richman pointed to “Smosh Live,” an 83-minute sketch-comedy show featuring Smosh leads Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla that streamed live on YouTube on Aug. 26. The live broadcast had 57,665 peak concurrent viewers, and all told the show has generated more than 2.1 million live and on-demand views so far. “It looked like television,” Richman said. “‘Smosh Live’ did so much better than we expected, especially in the opportunities it created for us.”

On the hiring front, Defy Media is looking to recruit across the board for open positions including a general manager of Clevver, content creators, and finance and sales personnel. It also plans to spend more money marketing its shows, channels and the company itself.

In addition to the weekly shows, Defy released “Smosh: The Movie” in the summer of 2015 (which hit No. 1 on iTunes’ movie comedy chart and was subsequently picked up by Netflix), produced Smosh comedy series “Part Timers” in collaboration with YouTube, and launched subscription VOD subscription service ScreenJunkies Plus. Defy distributes its content to more than 20 video platforms including YouTube, Comcast Watchable, Sky TV, Verizon’s Go90, Amazon Prime, Pluto TV and Spotify.

Guggenheim Partners served as exclusive financial adviser to Defy for the funding round, and Lowenstein Sandler acted as legal counsel.

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