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Expand chart
Data: Pitchbook; Table: Axios Visuals

Media upstarts are attracting far less cash compared to the venture-backed media boom of 2014 and 2015, according to new data from Pitchbook.

Why it matters: Investors are no longer willing to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars on new digital media sites, given how long it's taken for some of those investments to materialize and drive major returns.

Be smart: A handful of media companies have successfully raised money recently, helping to fuel the growth of new upstarts.

  • Puck, a splashy new digital media company launching in September, raised $7 million in a Series A funding round earlier this year led by 40 North Media, a related investment business of Standard Industries, and private equity giant TPG Growth.
  • Recount Media, the two-year-old startup founded by veteran journalists John Battelle and John Heilemann, raised $18 million in a series B funding round led by Foundry Group in May.
  • An unnamed company made up of a group of D.C.-based veteran journalists said in July it raised more than $10 million to launch a new politics and tech website.

Yes, but: The raises are relatively small — especially compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that companies like BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Vice Media attracted years ago — and have come early in these startups' trajectories.

  • Some companies that show high growth potential have been able to draw bigger investments over time.
  • The Athletic has raised a total of $139.5 million since its launch in 2016. Group Nine Media has raised $190 million since its launch in 2016.

What's next: Digital media giants that raised a fair amount of cash years ago are now looking to go public via SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies).

  • Some, like Vice Media, are reportedly struggling to raise enough capital to finance such deals.
  • Others have been able to successfully raise enough money to acquire other companies to give them the scale they need to trade on a public market. BuzzFeed, for example, is acquiring Complex as part of a SPAC deal worth $1.5 billion.

What to watch: Many of these startups gain enormous traction leveraging the nimble freedoms of the startup world, only to wind up selling to corporate titans when growth slows down.

  • Parenting publisher Some Spider Studios, for example, raised $10 million in 2017, and recently sold to BDG Media for around $150 million.

Go deeper

Nov 18, 2021 - Economy & Business

Streaming growth stalls

Expand chart
Data: Company filings; Note: "Paramount+ and Showtime" was formerly "CBS All Access and Showtime"; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Subscriber growth slowed last quarter for most of the major streaming services, prompting analysts to consider whether the subscription streamers are prepared to compete globally as the U.S. market saturates.

Why it matters: "Consumers sampled many different SVODs during the height of the pandemic. Churn is a challenge as consumers get back to a new normal routine," said Andrew Hare, SVP of research for global media & entertainment at media research firm Magid.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Nov 18, 2021 - Economy & Business

Trump deal could spark SPAC crackdown

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump was president when SPACs stopped being a cottage industry and instead became Wall Street waterfront. Now he might be indirectly responsible for reining in some SPAC excesses.

Driving the news: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Wednesday sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler, asking his agency to investigate the proposed merger between Trump's amoebic social media company and a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition Corp.

2 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.