Axel Springer buys 88 percent stake in Business Insider

Axel Springer has acquired 88 percent of Business Insider at a cost of $343 million. This means the German media conglomerate, which previously owned 9 percent of the publication co-founded by Henry Blodget, Kevin Ryan, and Dwight Merriman in 2007, now owns 97 percent of the primarily business-and tech-focused news site.
According to Axel Springer’s announcement, the rest of the company (all 3 percent) will be owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos’ personal investment vehicle, Bezos Expeditions. Business Insider’s leaders — chief executive Henry Blodget and chief operating officer and president Julie Hansen — will remain in their positions.
The price paid for Business Insider is less than the $560 million reported by Recode last week, but it’s still the most expensive acquisition of a Web-based publication since AOL spent $315 million on the Huffington Post in 2011. So what will Axel Springer get for the hundreds of millions it will spend on the growing news site?
Here’s what the German media company had to say about that in its announcement:

This acquisition is a vital part of Axel Springer’s strategy to broaden its global reach, diversify its English-language offerings and expand its commitment to innovative digital journalism.
The addition of Business Insider’s 76 million unique monthly visitors will increase Axel Springer’s worldwide digital audience by two-thirds to approximately 200 million users, making the company one of the world’s six largest digital publishers in terms of reach.

Recode says Axel Springer might also have been motivated by its failure to acquire the Financial Times earlier this year. The company’s also said to have wanted a Web asset, and Business Insider was “more affordable than publishers like BuzzFeed and Vox Media” despite the record-setting price it fetched as a Web-only news outlet.
Both of those companies have had their suitors, though. Reports surfaced last year that Disney had engaged in acquisition talks with BuzzFeed, and rumors about Vox Media selling to Comcast (one of its investors) have popped up throughout the year. Perhaps Business Insider’s sale will prompt some of these other talks to resume.

With Disney-Jaunt investment, the era of VR content is upon us

Thanks to fresh capital and some powerful new partners, cinematic VR leader Jaunt may very well begin exploring a slew of new opportunities to create virtual reality content.

It also makes Jaunt the highest-funded VR content startup (+$100 million), and the first to get a serious investment ($65 million) from a couple of the world’s most influential legacy media companies, Disney and the Madison Square Garden Company. When you combine that with the impending arrival of consumer VR headsets, Jaunt is poised to kick off a new era of VR content — one that goes well beyond video games.

Jaunt’s business is focused on what it calls “an end-to-end solution for creating cinematic VR experiences,” which in regular-people words means it simplifies the process of creating VR video and processing it into virtual environments. But as you’ve probably gathered, creating VR content is a vastly different beast compared to standard films and videos.

How, you ask? For starters, shooting VR video requires 360-degree recording to empower audiences with a key element of VR: the ability to look around and place yourself in the scene. VR content also usually requires some innovative camera technology, like Jaunt’s patent-pending camera system called “NEO” that employs a bevy of image sensors and a slew of lenses to capture the video. And finally, once you’ve captured, you need to have the recordings processed and edited using a system that’s designed specifically for VR content, which Jaunt also provides.

But none of that really matters if there isn’t compelling content for people to consume. In fact, good content is a bigger factor for the rise of VR than VR headset comfortability or consumer friendly pricing.

There are dozens of companies making VR content–from Discovery to Volvo and from Ustwo Games (the studio behind the hyper-successful mobile game Monument Valley) to Legendary Studios–but following this successful series C Jaunt seems poised to put itself at the forefront of cinematic VR. At the moment, the company’s content library offers several VR experiences that are available through the Jaunt VR viewer (which can be found in the App Store), including a climb collaboration with The North Face, a concert with Sir Paul McCartney, and a profoundly frightening VR horror experience called Black Mass.

Jaunt’s content largely centers around short experiences that place viewers in the space of the narrative, and it’s easy to imagine Jaunt jumping into Disney’s rich IP library to bring new stories, characters and spaces into the VR fold. Likewise, Disney — which has long-been involved in developing immersive experiences (like popular theme park attraction Soarin’, for example) — will almost definitely be presented with new VR opportunities for experiential tie-ins with its films and television shows. It may even open the door to theme park experiences outside of the theme parks themselves. (Because why should anyone have to wait until summer vacation to ride Space Mountain, ya know?)

Involvement from fellow Jaunt investor the Madison Square Garden Company, on the other hand, could absolutely signal the intent to continue developing VR experiences around live events, such as the concert with Paul McCartney. Working with the Madison Square Garden Company (which includes MSG, The Beacon Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, the Chicago Theatre, and others) would certainly open up opportunities to capture live events and create experiences around stage productions.

Though Jaunt is heavily involved in what it calls “cinematic VR”, it’s important to keep in mind that feature-length VR experiences are still a ways off. However, Disney and the Madison Square Garden Company’s financial vote of confidence in Jaunt speaks volumes about the future of VR content. While we aren’t going to see a VR Pixar film anytime soon, it seems entirely likely that we’ll see more VR content stemming from the resources (IP and media partnerships) of its new investors.

Disney Movies Anywhere is coming to Walmart’s Vudu

Disney Movies Anywhere, the cloud locker service that recently expanded from iOS to Android, is coming to another major retailer: Disney CTO Jamie Voris announced at a company event in Los Angeles Friday that the service will launch with Walmart’s Vudu streaming service next Tuesday. This means that Vudu users who have linked their account with Disney Movies Anywhere will be able to access Disney titles they have previously bought via iTunes or Google Play through Vudu apps, and vice versa. Interestingly, Vudu is also the first retailer that has partnered with both Disney’s cloud locker and the Ultraviolet locker run by most other major studios.

DirecTV next in line to get internet TV rights from Disney

Looks like Dish’s (S DISH) internet TV deal with Disney (S DIS) may open the floodgates for news about similar arrangements: Reuters is reporting that DirecTV is in negotiations with Disney about also launching an internet-based TV service with programming from ABC and ESPN. DirecTV’s retransmission agreement with Disney is up soon, so the timing couldn’t be better.

Here’s what happens when a data scientist goes to Disney World

Mailchimp chief data scientist John Foreman came on the Structure Show this week to report on his recent trip to Disneyland. It turns out the Magic Kingdom does indeed use data to deliver a personalized experience — and we’re fine with it because it’s fun(ish).