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Ozy Media Raises $35 Million in Funding Despite Digital Media Challenges

The company’s focus remains on immersive and interactive events

Ozy Media, which bills itself as “a daily digital magazine custom built for the Change Generation,” announced Friday the completion of a Series C funding round of $35 million, led by Marc Lasry.

Lasry, a businessman and the co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, was introduced to Ozy co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson through mutual friends, Watson told TheWrap.

“I think it actually started because his kids are big Ozy readers and went to Ozy Fest and listen to Ozy podcasts,” Watson explained.

Lasry is backing Ozy at a time when the company has used its festivals, podcasts and digital shows to buck the broader trend in digital media of consolidating or closing down. “I think he feels that we are at the forefront of so many of the most important consumer trends in media,” Watson said of Lasry’s investment.

He’s also backing it at a time when Ozy Fest, one of the company’s signature offerings, came out of a round of bad press out of organizers’ control: This summer, the annual festival was canceled by officials in New York because of excessive heat forecasts. Tickets for would-be attendees, who paid to see musicians like John Legend and speakers including Malcolm Gladwell, were refunded. Asked in a follow-up if that impacted fundraising or Lasry’s involvement, Watson didn’t immediately respond.

In announcing the fundraising, Lasry said, “The opportunity in the media industry right now is huge, from streaming television to events. It’s exciting to be getting in early at a company at the forefront of media, with a proven ability to create and deliver compelling and differentiated content across platforms. The best is yet to come from Ozy.

“The next chapter of Ozy will see us producing even more and different TV shows, bringing Ozy Fest to even more cities, launching more flavorful podcasts to spice up your commute, as well as continuing to help our audience see a broader and bolder world through our award-winning digital news and features,” Watson added.

He also did not immediately respond to questions of the company’s profitability, though Ozy boasts an audience of over 50 million monthly users across its various platforms. In a Thursday call, Watson was quick to note the company doesn’t see itself only as digital media and so, doesn’t measure success only by traffic.

The fundraising round also included participation from Interlock Partners, LionTree, Atinum Investment, iHeart Media, Venture Souq and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice partners Tom Franco, Don Gogel and Roberto Quarta. All key existing major investors, including GSV Capital, Axel Springer and Emerson Collective returned for the round, which brings Ozy to over $70 million raised since its founding in 2013.

Last year, Ozy announced it was forming an in-house production studio, dubbed Ozy Studios, as it looked to capitalize on its early success producing content. As of Friday, it has five television shows and four podcasts.