RTL Group Acquires StyleHaul YouTube Network

StyleHaul has become the latest addition to the growing list of multi-channel networks (MCNs) being snapped up by traditional media corporations.

Early this morning, the RTL Group announced they will acquire a controlling stake in the company for $107 million. The deal, which closes at the end of November and values the company at just over $150 million, will see RTL raise the 22.3% stake it already holds from an earlier investment in StyleHaul to 93.6%. The rest is owned by StyleHaul employees, and may be acquired by RTL under separate terms.

RTL also pledged a $20 million investment in StyleHaul to fund their growth plan, which includes a renewed focus on original programming.

The companies also agreed to an earn-out, much like the Maker/Disney Deal, which would see the price RTL pays increase if StyleHaul hits their financial performance targets over the next five years.

“For the past two years the partnership between StyleHaul and RTL Group has played an integral role in our success and growth,” StyleHaul’s Founder and CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski said. “This opportunity allows the unwavering passion and dedication of the StyleHaul team and ground-breaking community of influencers to accelerate all aspects of our business and we are very excited about what we will accomplish together.”

The Luxembourg-based RTL Group is one of Europe’s largest media production and broadcast holding companies with 54 television channels across Europe and Asia and some of the largest production companies in the world under their umbrella. FremantleMedia, the company behind popular television shows like The X Factor, America’s Got Telent, The Apprentice, The Price Is Right, and Family Feud, is one of the many companies RTL owns.

“StyleHaul is an excellent fit with our digital portfolio,” RTL Group co-CEOs Anke Schäferkordt and Guillaume de Posch said in a joint statement. “With its strong advertising sales team, impressive track record in producing web content and the synergy potential with RTL Group’s broadcasters and producers, StyleHaul has the ideal foundations for continued strong growth.”

RTL’s de Posch says the company plans to expand its online video business, and as television continues to fall out of favor with younger audiences, it makes sense for RTL to strategically align themselves with new media organizations. The company acquired a 51% controlling stake the fifth largest YouTube MCN BroadbandTV in 2013, and the acquisition of StyleHaul appears to be a continuation of that strategy.

With the help of Allen and Aaron DeBevoise, the team that founded Machinima, former Saks Fifth Avenue marketing executive Stephanie Horbaczewski founded StyleHaul in 2011 to set up a home for beauty and fashion vloggers that often felt ignored by other networks. The name of the company is a play on the popular “haul” videos, where vloggers showcase their latest beauty purchases.

Since their start in 2011, the company has grown into one of the leading specialty MCNs, boasting 53 million unique viewers per month across almost 5,000 YouTube channels. Zoe Sugg (Zoella), Alfie Deyes (PointlessBlog), Tanya Burr, Caspar Lee (Dicasp), Joey Graceffa, and Justine Ezarik (iJustine) are among the most popular creators represented by StyleHaul.

A key part of StyleHaul’s growth is their focus on branded campaigns, which have to potential to earn the company, and its creators, orders of magnitude more than traditional pre-roll and banner advertising. Deals with Maybelline, L’Oreal, and countless other companies have put StylyeHaul on track to triple their YOY revenue from 2013-14.

StyleHaul has also been experimenting with original programming for some time now. The company developed their own show earlier this year starring some of their  most popular creators, called ‘The Crew.’ The company also recently acquired the exclusive rights to Lisa Kudrow’s new web series ‘Web Therapy.’

The acquisition of StyleHaul proves that YouTube networks are still a hot commodity for traditional media companies after the sale of Maker Studios to Disney for up to $900 million. That deal was quickly followed by the sale of Fullscreen to Otter Media for up to $300 million.

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