Discovery Invests $100 Million in New Digital Media Company

  • Group Nine Media combines millennial-focused publishers
  • Investment gives Discovery option to buy controlling stake

Discovery Communications Inc., home of the TLC and Animal Planet cable networks, is investing $100 million in a new digital media holding company, marking the latest partnership between TV networks and web publishers as they adapt to the shifting media landscape.

The new company, Group Nine Media, combines several millennial-focused online publishers: Thrillist, a lifestyle brand; NowThis, a leading creator of social-media videos; the Dodo, a website focused on animals; and Seeker, a web video series focused on adventurers. Discovery announced the investment Thursday in a statement.

Discovery will become a minority investor, with the option of buying a controlling stake at a later date, according to the statement. Thrillist Chief Executive Officer Ben Lerer will become CEO of Group Nine Media, which will work with Discovery on content and ad sales across TV, online, social media and live events, including making videos on behalf of brands.

The partnership is another example of traditional and digital media joining forces. TV networks are looking online to reach younger consumers who may not subscribe to cable or satellite TV. At the same time, online publishers want to team up with TV networks, which can provide the needed funding and professional content to help them compete with Google and Facebook Inc., which are taking a large share of internet advertising.

Last year, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal invested $200 million in both BuzzFeed and Vox Media, publisher of the Verge, Eater and Recode. This year, Time Warner Inc.’s Turner, which runs the TNT and TBS cable channels, led a $45 million investment in online publisher Refinery29 and led a $15 million funding round for the news website Mashable.

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