Toronto’s Blue Ant Media has invested in Omnia Media, a music-focused YouTube network.
The move has the Blue Ant following similar moves by major media companies including Disney and Dreamworks Animation, which last year acquired the AwesomenessTV channel for $33 million.
Raja Khanna, CEO, television and digital for Blue Ant in Toronto, didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but said it was for a minority stake in Omnia that would become a majority stake within 12 months if unspecified performance objectives are attained.
Blue Ant now becomes the exclusive sales representative for Omnia, which boasts a roster of 650 emerging and established musical artists including The Weekend, Tyga and Wyclef Jean.
Omnia has an estimated 40 million subscribers worldwide and garners an estimated 550 million monthly digital video impressions. The company is also expanding its channel line-up to include both gaming and style.
“These are big, big numbers, so for us as a media company interested in presenting great content to audiences around the world, this is a natural evolution,” said Khanna. “That logic probably holds true for some of the other deals we’ve seen in the market.”
Khanna said that the expanded network is the only local option offering size and reach and access to talent of such calibre. “This deal creates a centre of gravity in Toronto around digital video and music in particular,” said Khanna. “Canada, I think, has fallen well behind in the last couple of years in what’s been happening in the digital video space.”
As part of the deal, Blue Ant also becomes Omnia Media’s preferred production partner for original content creation and brand integrations.
Music has been a cornerstone of Blue Ant’s business dating back to its early days as Glassbox Television, with the music and culture-focused AUX platform – which boasts both a television and digital presence – one of its first properties.
Omnia was established in Toronto about 18 months ago, but subsequently relocated to Los Angeles. The company claims 40 million YouTube subscribers worldwide and more than 100 million fans through its various social media platforms.
Omnia CEO Tamoor Shafi told Marketing his company had been speaking with “a number” of other potential investor partners, but opted for Blue Ant because it is well aligned with its core business and offered its artists access to additional distribution channels and revenue opportunities.
“Given what Blue Ant has already established with its distribution outlets as far as digital magazines and television, it provides that additional distribution and revenue for the artists we’re working with,” said Shafi. “They were the most relevant to us. It made sense given the expertise Blue Ant had to provide additional value to these artists.”
Khanna said that Omnia’s content – which garners more than 22 million views a month in Canada alone – is perfectly aligned with both AUX and its fashion-themed YouTube channel Style Collective. AUX has extensive experience working with brands to create music-focused activations across multiple channels including TV, digital and live events, said Khanna.
“It’s a profound change in reach for our music category, and it also brings us the 650 artists and influencers that Omnia represents, which we can put in front of brands and advertisers as potential collaborators on branded content and integration,” he said.
Khanna said that Blue Ant has already gone to market and expects to make its first sale under the expanded music offering within days. The company is targeting previous partners on music-related activations, as well as categories naturally aligned with the music business.
YouTube had already become a strategic business focus for Blue Ant, which has a dedicated YouTube staff and has been granted multi-channel network (MCN) status by the online entertainment giant.
“We were building it on our own, but to build what Tamoor has magically built in a year-and-a-half would have taken us God knows how many years,” said Khanna. “One of the main reasons we were attracted to Omnia is Tamoor himself. He’s a remarkable entrepreneur who’s built a fantastic business in an incredibly short period of time.”
YouTube is increasingly coming under the gaze of media companies as consumers increasingly consume bite-sized content on its vast array of channels. Entertainment giant Disney announced last week that it had purchased YouTube network Maker Studios, which generates an estimated 5.5 billion views a month, for US$500 million.
“Any company that wants be a modern media company, or wants to be in the business of presenting great content to audiences, has to play in the digital space in a meaningful way,” said Khanna. “They’re either going to have to build it or buy it.”