Saban, Disney invest in digital content firm Playbuzz

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The logo of the Disney store on the Champs Elysee is seen in Paris, France, March 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
The logo of the Disney store on the Champs Elysee is seen in Paris, France, March 3, 2016.

Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

Playbuzz, a U.S.-Israeli platform for distributing online content, has raised $15 million in funding led by Saban Ventures, with participation from Walt Disney Co (DIS.N).

Existing investors 83North, Carmel Ventures and FirstTime Ventures also participated in the funding, which follows a $16 million investment round last year.

Playbuzz said on Thursday it will use the money to develop its platform and expand its sponsored-content business, which works with companies such as Pizza Hut, Unilever and Ford to create advertising campaigns.

Playbuzz is used by thousands of publishers such as Time, USA Today, the Daily Telegraph and HBO to create content in new formats to boost audience engagement.

“People are becoming impatient and don’t read a lot today. Traditional media is usually long-form articles or video and they don’t make sense in an era where people discover content on a four-inch screen,” Shaul Olmert, Playbuzz’s New York-based CEO, told Reuters.

While quizzes are the most shared format on social media, Playbuzz also provides publishers with slideshows, flip cards, galleries and lists. U.S. media outlet The Hill used its video snaps format to divide a video previewing a Republican party debate into segments, enabling viewers to skip to candidates they wanted to hear.

UK newspaper publisher The Independent used a new format called swiper asking readers to agree or disagree with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies.

Olmert said the average time spent looking at a traditional news article is less than 15 seconds compared with 3-4 minutes for Playbuzz-powered content.

With 100 employees including 60 in Israel, Playbuzz makes money from sponsored content and began seeing revenue in the last quarter of 2015.

For example, American Express placed a quiz on UK media sites asked readers which family vacation they preferred and recommended places to travel.

U.S. digital ad spending in 2016 will reach $68.8 billion, or 35.8 percent of total media ad spending, rising to $105.2 billion in 2020, according to eMarketer.

Olmert, the son of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, expects revenue this year to more than triple.

Playbuzz competes with sites such as Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post and Vox Media for advertising, especially in sponsored campaigns. But Olmert notes they are publishers while Playbuzz distributes content for its partners on thousands of sites.

The investment by Disney and media tycoon Haim Saban, who chairs Univision, is part of a partnership that will lead to new projects, Olmert said.

(Editing by Jason Neely)