Hearst, publisher of Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Town & Country, among others, today announced its acquisition of UGO Networks Inc. (UGO.com), an online entertainment site that caters to the 18-to-34-year old male demographic.
While reported estimates place the sale price at about $100 million, one source with knowledge of the deal, pegs it closer to $150 million. The announcement characterizes the sale as Hearst’s "first major step into digital entertainment."
UGO.com says it attracts 11 million unique visitors per month and consistently places among Nielsen/NetRatings’ Top 10 multi-category entertainment properties. "UGO.com is a first-stop destination for the latest news and content on games, movies, television, film, DVDs, music, sports, women and comic books," said Victor Ganzi, president and CEO, Hearst Corporation, in a statement.
The site, which was founded in 1998 by CEO J Moses, provides a mix of internally-produced and third-party content. "Hearst has been interested in reaching a young audience, so the audience fit is not odd," says the source.
A second source concurs on the young audience reach, noting Hearst’s recent partnership with fashion and lifestyle portal Glam Media and its acquisition of social and dating network eCrush.com; but adds that the market is supporting very high prices for Web companies. "It is a lot of money, but there is a second bubble underway right now, not a crazy bubble, but a bubble nevertheless."
The second source also notes the significance of Ken Bronfin’s role in the deal and his division’s management of UGO.com. Bronfin is president of Hearst Interactive Media, a group that normally invests in development-stage new media companies. Other companies in the division’s portfolio have included iVillage, Netscape and Brightcove. "This is going under Bronfin, not Cathie Black [president, Hearst Magazines]. Bronfin has made huge profits for the company over the last several years, and top management trusts him," says the source.