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NowThis and TheDodo Owner Group Nine Media Looks to Acquire Digital Competitors

Potential deal comes as there have been twice as many SPAC IPOs in 2020 as there were in 2019

Group Nine Media, the owner of popular sites like NowThis, Thrillist and TheDodo, is considering buying competitors via a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The company has discussed the possibility with consultants in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter told the Journal, and is aiming for deals “that could grow its audience and give it more bargaining power with online advertisers.” The report did not mention any specific acquisition targets.

A rep for Group Nine did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

The report comes as more digital media companies are looking to make deals in a wave of consolidation. Last month, BuzzFeed announced plans to acquire HuffPost in an all-stock deal as part of a new arrangement with Verizon Media. And in September, the Saudi-financed Penske Media, owner of Hollywood trades Variety and Deadline, wrested majority control of rivals The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard in a deal insiders pegged at $100 million.

The acquisition spree come as major media brands are looking to beef up their audiences and give advertisers a reason to look their way, rather than Google and Facebook, which have combined to essentially create a digital ad duopoly. Last year, Vice agreed to buy Refinery 29, a female-driven lifestyle media company, for about $400 million — one week after Vox Media acquired New York Media, the home of New York Magazine.

Group Nine, formed in 2016, has also been on a buying spree in the last sever years. In 2019, the company acquired PopSugar, the female-focused celebrity and lifestyle publisher, in a deal valued at $600 million. At the time, Group Nine was valued at $1 billion and had more than 200 million followers on social media.

Now, Group Nine is looking at using a SPAC, something that has become an increasingly common way for companies to go public, raise money and then funnel that capital into potential deals, to acquire competitors. CNBC recently reported there have been twice as many SPAC IPOs in 2020 as there were in 2019, and five times as many as in 2015.