NBCUniversal is doubling its bet in BuzzFeed, by investing another $200 million

Peter Kafka
BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti
Manuel Blondeau | AOP.Press/Corbis | Getty Images

A year after making a major investment in BuzzFeed, NBCUniversal is doing it again.

Sources say Comcast's TV and movie arm is finalizing a deal that will put around $200 million into the digital publisher, at a valuation of around $1.7 billion.

Those are roughly the same numbers NBCUniversal used last year, when it first invested in BuzzFeed — except that deal gave BuzzFeed a post-money valuation of $1.5 billion.

NBCUniversal made the first BuzzFeed deal at the same time it also invested $200 million into Vox Media, which owns this site.

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Since those deals, some — but not all — investors have become more wary about betting on digital media companies. BuzzFeed missed its 2015 revenue goals, but BuzzFeed chairman Ken Lerer denied a report the company had knocked its 2016 goals down by half.

BuzzFeed rep Carole Robinson declined to comment on the deal but said, "We have a great relationship with NBCU. We're always talking about broadening the relationship. as part of our plan to grow as independent company." NBCU execs declined to comment.

People familiar with the company attributed BuzzFeed's 2015 miss to its shift to a "distributed" media strategy, where the goal is to find large audiences beyond its own web sites and apps. They say the publisher was attracting lots of eyeballs on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, but that advertising dollars hadn't followed.

Since then, BuzzFeed has made progress making money beyond its own properties. In large part that's because of Tasty, the Facebook video brand dedicated to food, along with other branded video projects, sources say.

Earlier this year BuzzFeed split its editorial operations into an entertainment group and a news group, and said it would put increasing resources into video. The New York Times reported that video would generate half of BuzzFeed's revenue this year, and that the company thinks that number will hit 75 percent in the next two years.

The $400 million NBCUniversal has put into BuzzFeed means it has become one of Big Media's biggest digital bets. For now, the only thing in its weight class is Disney's wager on Vice Media: Disney has put $400 million directly into the millennial+video-focused company, and owns more of Vice through its investment in A&E, which has also backed the company.

This year Disney has discussed a full acquisition of Vice, a potential move that has occupied a lot of headspace in medialand.

By Peter Kafka,

Disclosures: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement. NBCUniversal is a minority investor in BuzzFeed. CNBC's sister company Universal Studios competes with Disney.