ViralNova bought by ITV-backed Zealot Networks in $100m deal

Lynsey Barber
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ITV invested in Zappin's digital media company last year (Source: Getty)

ViralNova, a website which publishes shareable content with titles such as "You probably didn't know that raccoons getting baths would be this cute", has been bought up by the US publishing startup which picked up $5m (£3.2m) backing from ITV last year.

Zealot Networks has bought the website in a deal understood to be worth around the $100m mark in cash and shares.

“ViralNova provides us with a solid and profitable foundation for building our publisher network for which we can create original content, allowing those within and outside of Zealot Networks to reach engaged global audiences with creative solutions,” said the president and chief executive of Zealot Networks Danny Zappin, who sold his previous company Maker Studios to Disney for nearly £1bn.

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“The deal also allows our partner companies to leverage ViralNova’s successful proprietary technology, ‘Nova,’ to better monetize and build audience for their clients,” he said.

ViralNova, a similar media startup in the vain of Upworthy and Buzzfeed, boasts 100m monthly visits, three million Facebook followers and $35m in revenues projected in 2015.

“This move is driven by a shared vision of what it takes to grow a powerful organization in the digital publishing space with strong benefits for both companies moving forward,” said ViralNova chief Sean Beckner.

“ViralNova is a proven entity on multiple fronts - delivering quality content, a dedicated community and innovative technology. Zealot receives a top-tier publisher and the technological foundation necessary to empower its portfolio of companies, and we can increase our already rapid rate of growth and bring added value for ViralNova partners.”

ITV invested in Zealot in December 2014. At the time, ITV Studios managing director Kevin Lygo said: “Danny Zappin has been at the forefront of digital media in the US for some time and it’s fantastic to be part of this exciting new venture.

"A key part of ITV’s strategy is to exploit the increasing global demand for quality content across a range of platforms, which closely aligns with Zealot’s own ambitions to not only distribute content across its own sites, but also to third party platforms such as YouTube, Vine and Instagram.”

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