By Sahil Patel
Online music video programmer VEVO is said to have been acquired by Guggenheim Digital Media. This comes from industry sources familiar with the matter and follows a mid-April report from The Wall Street Journal, which indicated that Guggenheim was interested in taking a controlling stake in the company. It’s unclear at the moment the exact nature of the acquisition — how big of a stake Guggenheim might have taken in VEVO.
A VEVO spokesperson declined to comment. Guggenheim Digital hasn’t responded to a request for comment. UPDATE: Via his Twitter account, VEVO CEO Rio Caraeff says these rumors are untrue.
Guggenheim Digital was formed by Guggenheim Partners this past January with the goal of expanding into new media and entertainment businesses. At the same time, the financial services firm appointed former Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn as Guggenheim Digital’s chief executive. Earlier this summer, the unit was one of seven suitors interested in buying Hulu, which had been put on the block by its ownership for the second time in three years. Ultimately, Hulu’s owners decided not to sell the video company, though Guggenheim had dropped out of the bidding process by that point.
It appears that didn’t deter Guggenheim Digital from looking into other premium online video businesses. I’m told that it’s common knowledge that over the past few months Guggenheim has also taken meetings with several YouTube MCNs with an eye toward potentially investing in those networks. The unit is armed with a “war chest” that the aforementioned WSJ report described as being in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
In June, VEVO ranked first among “YouTube partner channels” with nearly 47.5 million unique viewers during the month, according to comScore. The company, which offers content ranging from music videos to live concerts and original programming, is owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Abu Dhabi Media Co. The company also counts Google as an investor.
Guggenheim’s media portfolio includes Billboard, Adweek, and The Hollywood Reporter. In April, Guggenheim Digital expanded the Billboard Group to include Billboard, Backstage, and Sonic Bids. It’s possible that VEVO slides into this division, which focuses on music content and industry and is led by John Amato. In fact, and this is pure speculation as it’s not clear what Guggenheim Digital and the Billboard Group might want to do with VEVO, it’s easy to foresee some video-based collaborations and partnerships between VEVO and Billboard, which also runs the Billboard Music Awards.