In the past few months, many hot digital media companies have set their sights on a particular target: getting their brands onto traditional TV.
Refinery29, the powerhouse millennial women’s publisher reportedly valued at $500 million, is no exception. “We’ve been aggressive about being on every platform first, and the next one is TV,” Refinery29 CEO Philippe von Borries said on The Wall Street Journal’s Media Mix podcast. “There’s no question.”
While this might seem like moving backwards, the reasoning is pretty simple for digital media companies like Vice, Vox, Refinery29, and so on.
TV still has huge audiences, big-time ad money, and is “probably one of the most efficient businesses that exist in media today,” according to von Borries.
But to get onto TV, you have to have a lot of money to invest in quality programming, and connections in the TV industry. That’s why it’s vital to have a “strategic partner” (or two) investing millions, who has the incentive to boost your business. Vox and BuzzFeed have each gotten $100+ million from NBC, Vice has $400 million from Disney, Thrillist’s new holding company secured $100 million from Discovery just last week, and Refinery29 snagged $45 million from Turner this summer.
Everyone has a dance partner — and it helps.
Last week, Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer told Business Insider that one day after the announcement of his new holding company, which tied together four media brands with a $100 million investment from Discovery, he’d already gotten six notes from TV execs asking about creating something together. He’s being taken more seriously as a partner for TV.
Von Borries broke down the relationship between the traditional media company backer and the digital upstart into two categories, from Refinery29’s perspective.
- “Content creation.” For Refinery29 and Turner, this means two things. The first is Refinery29 helping to create “digital extensions” of some of Turners core franchises (he mentions the SAG awards). But the second is getting Refinery29’s intellectual property into the world of TV, and developing vehicles like documentaries and scripted shows.
- “Ad sales.” Von Borries said there’s a mutually beneficial relationship of bringing more advertisers into the fold. Turner has an exceptional portfolio of global brands, he said, but “not a huge representation in women.” That’s something Refinery29 can help with.