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It’s a testament to both the madness in the private equity markets and the hype around online video taking place right now that a company without a name, a website or even a clear exit strategy has been able to raise $100 million dollars at a market valuation of $1 billion.
Yes, that’s right, we are talking about NewCo, a joint venture between NBC (GE) and News Corp. (NWS), and their partners that was unveiled back in March.
Providence Equity Partners, a Rhode Island-based investment house, must have a good reason behind this investment, just like it must have had its reasons to fund dozens of (now defunct) telecom operators during the optical and telecom bubble of the late 1990s.
“It’s a sign of the times when a company that didn’t exist a couple months ago can raise this kind of money,” Todd Dagres, general partner at venture capital firm Spark Capital , told The New York Times. Others, like Roger McNamee, a partner at private equity firm Elevation Partners, expressed his doubts, pointing out that joint ventures rarely work out. We couldn’t agree with him more.
We had reported NewCo’s fund raising efforts a few months back, wondering what a prospective investor would see in this new online video destination, whose chances of dislodging YouTube from the top spot are about as high as Tampa Bay Devil Rays winning the American League Championship.
Even if you take YouTube out of the equation, the content libraries of NBC and News Corp. may not be enough to amount to a sustainable, and profitable, business. And then there is the utter confusion the two JV partners are going to end up creating in the market. News Corp’s MySpace has MySpaceTV, while NBC is busy launching different sites – moves that diffuse the extent of their new partnership’s potential reach.
NewCo, recently hired former Amazon.com (AMZN) executive Jason Kilar as its chief executive and has 120 people working in its L.A. office, the New York Times reports. But it’s going to take a lot more than $100 million, a CEO and big talk to beat Google (GOOG). It would take new thinking. Although from my own experience, I can tell you: it’s tough to teach old media dogs new tricks.