News Corp. is doubling down on online video that’s viral, measurable and spreadable. The company announced Wednesday that it has acquired Unruly, a digital video technology firm based in the Shoreditch section of London, for approximately $90 million. The company will report to one of News Corp.’s new old bosses, Rebekah Brooks, who was named the head of News Corp.'s News UK last week.
“Combining the formidable reach and resonance of our titles with their cutting-edge technology and video expertise will help accelerate our growth in this digital age,” Brooks said in a statement released Thursday. “We look forward to working with one of Europe’s most highly regarded tech teams to create new premium video inventory for our News UK mastheads and other businesses, and to provide advertisers with best-in-class brand solutions across all platforms.”
Unruly is the second video acquisition News Corp. has made in the past couple years. Back in December 2013, it bought Storyful, an Irish firm that finds and licenses video and social content that’s on the verge of going viral. Storyful was a prominent part of News Corp.’s first-ever newfront presentation this past spring, and it seems that Unruly’s capabilities will complement Storyful’s: In addition to finding viral content, Unruly makes most of its money by seeding videos and video ads in websites across the Internet. Prior to the acquisition, Unruly counted Adidas, Dove, T-Mobile, Evian and Renault among its client brands.
News Corp.'s acquisition comes as more and more advertisers are looking to bombard consumers with video advertising that hits all of the screens they stare at all day. Research from eMarketer finds that more than 78 percent of U.S. Internet users consume digital video in some form, and advertisers are following them: Nearly 40 percent of the digital video ad campaigns run in the fourth quarter of 2014 were so-called cross-device campaigns, which send video content to PCs, phones and tablets.
It also comes as News Corp. looks for a way to turn around its earnings. The company missed third-quarter-revenue projections, as advertising revenues declined more than 5 percent.
“We are absolutely delighted to join the News Corp. family,” Unruly co-founder and Co-CEO Scott Button said in a statement. “It’s a tremendous milestone and an exciting new chapter for the whole Unruly team.”
How well Unruly performs for its new bosses could make a big difference for its founders. According to Wednesday's announcement, the News Corp. deal with Unruly could be worth an additional $86 million in future payments if certain business objectives are achieved. Success will also be key for Brooks, who returns to her role as chief of News UK. She resigned in 2011 in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal that led to numerous trials and the closure of the News Corp. tabloid News of the World.