Viacom is getting into business with Pocket.watch, leading a $15 million Series B funding round in the kids’ entertainment startup and the two companies setting a commercial partnership for content and advertising.
Under their commercial agreement, Viacom and Pocket.watch will develop and produce long- and short-form content and identify future kid creators and talent for digital and TV. In addition, Viacom will become the exclusive third-party agent for ad sales on Pocket.watch’s YouTube and creator footprint, which the media plans to package Nickelodeon inventory.
Pocket.watch and Viacom have already engaged in a variety of content initiatives together including developing “Skoogle,” the sketch-comedy show created by and starring Keenan Thompson for Nickelodeon, while Paramount Players (headed by Brian Robbins) has bought a pitch from Pocket.watch for a feature film currently titled “The Unboxing Movie.”
“It became clear there were areas of alignment between the two companies,” said founder and CEO Chris M. Williams (pictured above). “There’s strong opportunity to bring together our creators with the Viacom brands.” Pocket.watch creator partners will also be invited to a variety of Viacom events including the Kids Choice Awards.
Launched in March 2017, Pocket.watch has focused on enlisted kid-and-family-oriented YouTube creators, including Ryan ToysReview, EvanTubeHD, CaptainSparklez and HobbyKidsTV. The 20 YouTube channels that are part of Pocket.watch’s network currently deliver over 1 billion monthly views with a combined subscriber base of over 34 million.
Pocket.watch will use the new capital to extend licensing and merchandising, engage in brand deals with original intellectual property, and develop new programming franchises, Williams said.
This summer, the company will launch several consumer-facing initiatives, including in retail and with a subscription VOD partner. This fall, Pocket.watch will debut its first book, “Watch This Book!,” featuring Ryan ToysReview, HobbyKidsTV, JillianTubeHD, and EvanTubeHD. It’s the first in a series of books released under the Pocket.watch Books imprint through Simon Spotlight, a division of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
“Basically we’ve been setting up chess pieces for our consumer brand launch,” Williams said.
With the latest funding, Pocket.watch has raised $21 million to date. The latest round included participation from existing investor UTA Ventures and Greycroft’s Tracker fund, a new investor. Other backers include Third Wave Digital, CBS CEO Les Moonves, Robert Downey Jr. (through Team Downey) and producer Jon Landau. Williams declined to disclose Pocket.watch’s valuation with the funding, but said it was an up round (meaning the valuation increased).
Sarah Levy, COO of Viacom Media Networks, will join the Pocket.watch board alongside Williams. (In the next few weeks, Williams says he plans to name a third board member.)
“Pocket.watch’s unique and comprehensive approach to celebrating the new digital stars of today makes them an outstanding partner for Nickelodeon and our unmatched connections with kids around the world through video, digital and real-world events,” Levy said in a statement.
Pocket.watch’s executive team comprises several entertainment-biz veterans, including Williams (formerly with Maker Studios and Disney Online Originals; Albie Hecht, ex-head of Nickelodeon; entertainment lawyer Jon Moonves; and David B. Williams, formerly with Endemol Beyond USA and Maker.
Pocket.watch currently has about 40 full-time employees, based in Culver City, Calif. The company’s 8,000-square-foot headquarters includes studio space and offices.