Television

Turner, Bigballs deal strengthens former's digital sports & latter's international foray

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MUMBAI: Turner International’s Digital Ventures & Innovation Group has announced an equity investment in digital media sports company Bigballs Media (BBM), parent company of one of the world's fastest-growing digital video platforms for football content, Copa90.

The funding will be used to fuel BBM’s international expansion, content production and distribution and enhance its data capabilities as it continues its growth trajectory. The investment will fuel further international growth and fully establish Copa90 as the definitive football youth media brand.

Turner’s Digital Ventures & Innovation Group was recently formed to focus on opportunities for innovation, development and acquisition. The investment comes within the group’s first month of operations and signals the company’s commitment to increasing its presence in the digital sports space. Turner is the largest provider of funding for the Series B investment round and the main strategic investor.

In parallel, Turner and BBM have signed a commercial agreement which embraces multiple opportunities for Turner and BBM to leverage their respective distribution and content production expertise. The partnership expands on an existing commercial relationship with leading digital sports brand Bleacher Report, a division of Turner.

The cross-platform commercial agreement includes strategic co-branded content production, the development of third party branded content and sponsorship opportunities, and content creation for Turner’s own channels. It also facilitates BBM’s close collaboration across the wider Turner portfolio, including Esporte Interativo, Turner Sports and CNN. Additionally, Aksel van der Wal, head of Digital Ventures & Innovation, will take a seat on BBM’s board of directors, and Bleacher Report COO Alex Vargas, becomes a board observer.

“Partnering with relevant brands is a core part of our strategy to compete and lead in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape,” said Turner International executive vice president - digital ventures & innovation Aksel van der Wal.

“We see really exciting opportunities to work with BBM in developing creative ways to engage new audiences, in particular expanding our growing touchpoints with millennials while also offering innovative new platforms for advertisers. It is exactly the kind of forward-looking partnership we hope to establish more of.”

BBM CEO Tom Thirlwall said: “Our ambition is to be the world’s most influential football media business by the time the 2018 World Cup kicks off and this investment and partnership with Turner is a decisive step towards making that a reality.

“We had significant interest in our round but Turner was by far and away the most compelling because of their team, vision and the strategic opportunities for both our businesses. The investment will enable us to accelerate our growth in our core markets, build our data and distribution capabilities and expand our commercial teams in Europe and the US and of course continue to make the best fan culture football content.”

“Bleacher Report and Copa90 share a passion for global football fan culture. We are very excited about the investment and taking a step forward in expanding our existing relationship. Our hugely popular "Saturdays Are Lit" Snapchat collaboration has set a great benchmark for the kind of exciting opportunities we expect to develop together,” said Vargas.

The investment in BBM is the latest in a series of investments by Turner in the digital space and the first with a company headquartered outside of the US. It follows on from similar investments in 2016 in Refinery29 and Mashable. The company also acquired a majority stake in iStreamPlanet in 2015. Turner has also recently expanded Bleacher Report and injected new investment in CNN Digital. Internationally it has launched a suite of new digital-first destinations and apps across the broader digital ecosystem to extend its fan engagement around flagship properties such as CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, as part of the company’s accelerated focus on evolving its digital business interests and capabilities.

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