Summary:

Turner Networks was looking to augment its digital portfolio with a proven producer of low-cost internet video. Funny or Die was looking for a little old-media reach and muscle to help it grow. Why their partnership could signal a coming acquisition wave of independent video producers

jooey-deschanel-from-funny-or-die

Has a rush of new alliances between large cable programming conglomerates and independent producers of online video begun?

Two weeks after cable giant Discovery Networks paid about $30 million to acquire San Francisco-based Revision3, Turner Networks revealed a significant partnership with online comedy producer Funny or Die.

Under terms of the deal, Atlanta-based Turner paid an undisclosed sum to acquire about 10 percent of Funny or Die, which was formed in late-2006 by Gary Sanchez Productions, the production company jointly run by comedians Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. (The site’s latest hit, a send-up of Apple’s Siri ad starring Zooey Deschanel, is embedded below for your comedic enjoyment.)

Turner is sure to look for cross-platform uses for Funny or Die’s video content on channels including TBS, a cable outlet focused on traditional sitcoms, and Adult Swim, the young-male-targeted platform that Cartoon Network turns into after the kids go to bed. But it will also now be in charge of ad sales for Funny or Die.

With Funny or Die averaging around 16 million unique users per month, according to comScore, Turner’s cable platforms — which average millions of viewers at any given prime-time moment — will offer Funny or Die a means of broadening its audience.

It’s not Funny or Die’s first traditional TV platform.

Back in 2008, Turner’s Time Warner sibling, HBO, invested several million dollars into Funny or Die, and launched a series, Funny or Die Presents, that’s now in its third season. Of course, several hundred thousand viewers on a premium cable network with no advertiser support is one thing; the Turner deal is quite another.

This latest agreement will also make Funny or Die more accessible to major advertisers looking for larger packages spanning myriad platforms.

“We’ve done terrifically well, but we don’t have the reach to [be] able to sell incredibly, broad, big packages,” Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover told AdAge Wednesday. (Separately, Funny or Die announced a deal Wednesday with NCM Media Networks, which programs the stuff you see on the big screen in movie theaters in between engagements. NCM and Funny or Die will jointly sell and custom create branded comedy content for sponsors who buy in.)

For its part, Turner has also done quite well in terms of digital media, garnering an audience of nearly 75 million unique users in April, according to comScore, for a network of properties that includes assets like CNN.com and NBA.com.

For Turner, which typically pays well over $500,000 to make an hour of scripted video, Funny or Die represents a shop that knows how to inexpensively shoot (i.e. no Hollywood unions!) short-form video. This is useful as it seeks to not only program linear channels like Adult Swim, but also transition these brands more into digital platforms.

Certainly, if you’re an independent producer of online video with any semblance of profile and audience share right now, times aren’t bad. On one side, you have large technology companies like YouTube, which are eager to acquire premium content as they seek to infiltrate cable TV’s advertising market share.

And on the other side, you now have large traditional media companies who also want to invest and buy your content, as they look to ward off this challenge.

Enjoy the moment. More big deals like this are coming.

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