Group Nine Media buys VC-backed PopSugar

Group Nine Media said Oct. 7 that it agreed to buy PopSugar Inc. The deal values PopSugar at more than $300 million, according to press reports. PopSugar, a women-focused publisher, has raised $41 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and IVP.

PRESS RELEASE

New York, NY (October 7, 2019) — Group Nine Media today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire POPSUGAR Inc., the leading digital lifestyle brand for women. The combination solidifies Group Nine’s position among the preeminent next-generation diversified digital media companies.
• The combined company will reach more than 50% of the overall U.S. population and 70% of U.S. Millennials (18-34) with:
• a highly engaged and loyal fanbase of over 200M followers;
• estimated unduplicated reach of 150M in the U.S. alone;
• audiences that spend more than 50M hours a month with the combined company’s content;
• shows and other content on over 30 platforms and channels;
• multiplatform leadership across content, commerce, licensing, and experiential. [See Group Nine fact sheet]
“When we started Group Nine almost three years ago by combining Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo, and Seeker, we foresaw the impending consolidation of the industry and set out to create a model for the next-generation media company with significant scale, deeply loyal and engaged audiences, multiplatform expertise, and highly diversified revenue,” said Ben Lerer, CEO of Group Nine. “POPSUGAR hugely expands our reach within an important demographic, bringing us a community that deeply loves the POPSUGAR brand and a company with the proven ability to diversify their revenue across premium advertising, affiliate, direct-to-consumer commerce, licensing, and experiential channels.”
“We’ve built POPSUGAR to be a welcoming voice that resonates with all women across all of her passion points,” said Lisa Sugar, Founder & President of POPSUGAR. “Whether it’s pop culture, fitness and wellness, beauty and style, or parenting and fertility, we’re able to connect in a real and relatable way through inspiration, service, and advice. That trust factor and strong brand identity has enabled us to expand into consumer products — like our Must Have subscription boxes, our Beauty by POPSUGAR line, and our RTW collection with Kohl’s — and has paved the way for our flagship festival, POPSUGAR Play/Ground. The Group Nine brands share a similar passionate connection with their audiences as well as an ethos of optimism and action that truly excites me as we become part of the Group Nine portfolio.”
“Over the past few years, we’ve gotten POPSUGAR to profitability and found a way to build a well-diversified business that has outlasted many of our competitors in a rapidly evolving space,” said Brian Sugar, Founder & CEO of POPSUGAR. “Joining forces with a company and team that has the ambition, momentum, and market leadership of Group Nine, combined with our experience and innovation in commerce and experiential, will allow us to build a scalable business model that sets the standard for the next-generation media company.”
The merger will create a diversified, multiplatform company driven by:
Unparalleled digital distribution
The combined company will have over 200M social followers and deep, productive relationships and business agreements with all of the major digital platforms including Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
The fastest-growing production studio business in the digital industry
Group Nine has an award-winning studio business with content partnerships on over 30 platforms and channels including Discovery, Netflix, Comedy Central, Amazon, and Hulu. In 2017, Group Nine acquired Emmy-winning production studio JASH.
Powerful cross-platform advertising solutions
The combination opens up powerful cross-platform advertising solutions for marketers to reach women through the newly combined Group Nine and their strategic partner and lead investor, Discovery, Inc. — currently the #1 most-watched TV company for women (W25-54). Advertisers across the portfolio will also have access to Group Nine’s Cannes Lions-winning in-house ad agency, Brandshop. Group Nine’s marketing partners can also tap innovative ad products like POPSUGAR’s Sparkle, which allows retailers to build unique mobile commerce experiences for customers, and Must Have It, which lets advertisers send potential customers offers via SMS.
New growth opportunities in commerce, licensing, and brand extensions
POPSUGAR’s innovative commerce offerings — such as their Must Have Box, which is a quarterly subscription box; and Glow by POPSUGAR, a fast-growing digital marketplace for workout videos, merchandise, and fitness tips — will accelerate Group Nine’s expansion into commerce and direct-to-consumer businesses. POPSUGAR also brings to Group Nine a fast-growing affiliate business, POPSUGAR Shop, that will help expedite Group Nine’s already launched efforts in this space. The acquisition will further diversify Group Nine’s revenue mix through POPSUGAR’s licensing deals and products such as their trend-based apparel collection with Kohl’s and their Beauty by POPSUGAR product line sold in Macy’s, Ulta, and Kohl’s. Group Nine will continue to expand into new areas that cultivate the passionate communities of fans that surround its brands. Some examples include Group Nine’s partnership with iHeartMedia to co-produce podcasts and The Dodo’s recent partnership with Scholastic to create children’s books based on some of their hit shows.
High-profile events
The combined company will merge their fast-growing experiential businesses including Hotel Thrillist, entering its 10th year; POPSUGAR’s 15,000-person lifestyle and wellness festival, Play/Ground; and The Dodo’s just-launched Best Dog Day Ever.

Last month, Group Nine announced that it had raised $50 million in new funding from its lead investor, Discovery, Inc., and strategic partner Axel Springer SE.
Ben Lerer is CEO of Group Nine. Brian Sugar and Lisa Sugar will join the executive team of Group Nine and, as part of the deal, Brian Sugar and strategic investor Michael Moritz will join Group Nine’s board of directors.
Cooley LLP advised Group Nine Media and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, LLP and Code Advisors advised POPSUGAR on the acquisition.
About Group Nine:
Group Nine’s mission is to tell great stories that spark action and make a real difference. As the #1 video publisher on mobile in the U.S. [Nielsen DCR, July 2019], Group Nine’s brands are built for the platforms where young people spend the majority of their time. We reach over 70% of Americans in their 20s every month [Nielsen, July 2019]. Audiences spend nearly 50 million hours a month engaging with our category-defining brands – NowThis, the no. 1 most-watched mobile news brand in the world; The Dodo, the no. 1 animal brand on digital; Thrillist, the most-trusted digital brand in food, drink, travel & entertainment; and Seeker, the no. 1 science brand in the U.S. In 2017, Group Nine acquired Emmy nominated, Cannes Lion and Sundance Film Festival award-winning production studio, JASH. Group Nine has been recognized with hundreds of prestigious awards including Edward R. Murrow, James Beard, Cannes Lion, Critic’s Choice, among others.
About POPSUGAR Inc.:
POPSUGAR Inc. is the leading digital lifestyle brand for women globally. The company reaches young women through its digital media brand, POPSUGAR; its quarterly subscription box POPSUGAR Must Have; its makeup line, Beauty by POPSUGAR; the POPSUGAR Collection at Kohl’s; and the large-scale festival, POPSUGAR Play/Ground. POPSUGAR delivers positive and purpose-driven content spanning entertainment, fashion, beauty, fitness, parenting, and more. POPSUGAR reaches 300M readers across its platforms and one in two millennial women in the United States. Founded in 2006, POPSUGAR had raised $41 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and IVP.