“You’re definitely seeing the top firms come in,” Werner said. “People who were skeptical of that market in the past are saying, ‘Let me look a little closer.’ ”
Those bets are being confirmed, in part, by the size and number of exits that have been seen this year.
By this time last year, just six companies had been sold, with DreamWorks Animation’s $117 million purchase of another multichannel network, L.A.’s AwesomenessTV, the only one in which terms were disclosed.
Nearly three times as many deals have been struck this year, with Walt Disney Co.’s March purchase of Maker Studios leading the pack. The Culver City YouTube multichannel network could bring in $950 million from the deal if all benchmarks are met.
SoCalTech.com editor Benjamin Kuo said the region should be encouraged by recent trends.
“I think the number and size of the exits speaks very positively to Southern California’s ability to continue to produce very valuable startup companies,” Kuo said in an email.
Werner noted that tech companies with revenue models built around content are garnering particular interest, owing to L.A.’s deep-rooted knowledge base in all things entertainment.
These businesses, such as multichannel networks, or MCNs, offer large media companies access to a whole new consumer base.
And buyers are certainly not in it for the YouTube ad dollars.
“If they can drive more unique users to their site,” Werner said of the studios’ desire to move eyeballs away from YouTube, “then they can generate revenue from them.”
After the Maker deal, rumors were swirling that rival multichannel network Fullscreen, which received $30 million in Series A funding last year from Chernin Group and Comcast Ventures, among others, is also on the market and looking for a Maker-size payday. Recent reports have named Time Warner, Yahoo and Relativity Media as suitors for the Culver City company.
Also in March, West Hollywood’s Machinima raised $18 million from a group of investors including Warner Bros. Entertainment and Google. Not to be outdone, Culver City’s Collective Digital Studio raised an eight-figure round from German media conglomerate ProSiebenSat.1, reportedly in exchange for 20 percent of the company.
Chen said this spate of deals has also had a ripple effect on smaller YouTube networks that produce content for a narrower audience base.
“Newer emerging MCNs focused on niche content verticals have all seen an increase in investor interest and activity” over the past few months, he said.