Discovery Does Its Biggest Online Buy: HowStuffWorks For $250 Million

imageDiscovery Communications (NSDQ: DISCA) has made its biggest online acquisition till date: it is buying Atlanta-based online reference site for $250 million. The purchase also includes a number of digital properties, such as a map database and, owned by HSW, which isn’t yet profitable, reports WSJ.

Discovery initially plans to merge HSW’s text content with the network’s video footage, and plans to incorporate HSW in its future programming plans. CEO David Zaslav, who came from NBCU earlier this year, said Discovery’s own websites haven’t done well. “We’re way behind in new media and digital…I don’t think we win just by building vertically.” More after the jump…

The parent company of HSW is ConvexGroup, though I am not sure if FlexPlay, limited-life DVD firm, is part of this deal (more as we find out). Convex was founded by Jeff Arnold, founder and former CEO of WebMD. HSW was founded in 1998 by Marshall Brain, a university professor in North Carolina, and was sold to Convex in 2002. HSW site has about 3.8 million unique U.S. users a month, according to says it has 11 million users globally.

HSW has raised some big money in the last two years, including investment from billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn…it raised a $75 million round earlier this year from Capital Research & Management, Chilton Investment Co. and several others. For its independent international venture HSW International, it has a partnership in 2006 with Chinese company INTAC International, and HSWI has raised a total of $50 million…HSWI is not part of this deal.

HSW has a story on it as well, by its founder: “Our goal is to build the ultimate multimedia experience for people who want to learn about the world we live in.”