By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 17, 2011 at 10:09AM
SnagFilms, founded two years ago by filmanthropist Ted Leonsis, has raised $10 million from New Enterprise Associates and Comcast Interactive Capital. SnagFilms has a library of more than 2000 documentaries that it releases on the internet; it shares revenues from short ads with filmmakers.
Now the web distributor, led by CEO Rick Allen, will add fiction features to its roster, both English-language and foreign. Allen has brought in indie kingpin Bingham Ray (United Artists, Kimmel Entertainment), who will enter the Sundance fray with a mandate to look for pick-ups for the service. Just last week SnagFilms added an iPad app for streaming video, and will continue to expand across more mobile devices. "SnagFilms plus Bingham Ray is a great combination," said Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics. "Bingham knows the indie world as well as anyone alive and is admired for his experience and for always delivering for filmmakers. He'll be a big asset to SnagFilms' expansion."
SnagFilms also owns 15-year-old indieWIRE, home of this blog and the expanding indieWIRE Blog Network. IndieWIRE will also be gaining additional resources as it evolves under new editor-in-chief Dana Harris, who left Variety to start at indieWIRE at the new year. Here's her take on this story, as well as All Things D and the NYT. The full release is below.
Industry Powerhouses NEA and Comcast Invest in SnagFilms
$10 million in new funding to distribute documentaries and fictional independent films on all digital platforms and devices, globally
Washington D.C. – January 17, 2011 -- SnagFilms announced today it has received $10 million in growth capital from new investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC). Existing investors, including Ted Leonsis (SnagFilms’ Founder) and Steve Case, also participated. The financing will be used to expand its distribution of independent films – including, for the first time fictional independent releases – across all digital platforms and devices, and on a global basis.
SnagFilms is a leader in distributing free, ad-supported titles from a library of over 2000 non-fiction films. Last year, SnagFilms entered the transactional world with launches of video on demand channels on Comcast and Verizon FiOS, as well as titles for sale through the Apple’s iTunes store. Earlier this month, SnagFilms debuted its iPad application with the largest collection of award-winning U.S. films offered free to iPad users.
“As a profitable company with substantial private investors, SnagFilms didn’t need to raise outside capital,” said company founder Ted Leonsis. “However, we saw overwhelming strategic value in involving NEA, a pioneer and leading venture capital firm, and CIC, the investment arm of Comcast. SnagFilms is very well-financed and uniquely positioned now to bring the full array of independent films – fiction and non-fiction, U.S. and foreign – to global audiences on all platforms and devices. We’ve amassed a library of 2,000 documentaries since our launch, and we’re now building distribution opportunities for tens of thousands of independent films in both categories. That’s great news for film fans and for filmmakers.”
“SnagFilms is perfectly positioned to fuse technology and content in a manner that has marked many of the transformational industry leaders we have helped build in the past,” said NEA Managing General Partner Peter Barris, who joins the Company’s Board of Directors. “New devices and digital platforms will allow consumers unprecedented access to quality content, and SnagFilms will be there to delight them. We are pleased to be able to invest in SnagFilms at this time, and to help them add fictional indie films to their expertise with documentaries – and to take both genres to the full swath of digital platforms and devices.” Among many other investments, Barris serves on the board of Groupon as its first VC investor.
“We are excited about the new opportunities SnagFilms creates, especially for independent filmmakers who historically could not get distribution,” said David Horowitz, Managing Director of Comcast Interactive Capital. “This investment reflects our view that consumers are demanding a diverse selection of high-quality content that can be watched on any platform or device.”
SnagFilms also announced that industry veteran Bingham Ray will join the Company to help guide its entry into distribution of fictional narrative and foreign-produced independent films. Ray, former President of United Artists, October Films and Kimmel Entertainment, and honored for Lifetime Achievement by the Gotham Awards, has deep experience in the acquisition, marketing and distribution of motion pictures, including Hotel Rwanda, Bowling for Columbine, Secrets & Lies, War Room, High Art, Last Days and Breaking the Waves.
“Bingham has been an advocate for filmmakers throughout his career,” noted Rick Allen, SnagFilms CEO. “His record of successful distribution on traditional platforms provides a strategic sense and depth of relationships that will be invaluable as we extend our model into a broader array of films. Bingham will be a key member of our large presence at the Sundance Film Festival this week and beyond. ”
“I’ve been a big fan of SnagFilms from their earliest days, and am truly thrilled to be part of the team as they expand the service, bringing more filmmakers to bigger audiences on a wider array of platforms,” said Ray. “This is the future of our business.”
"SnagFilms plus Bingham Ray is a great combination," said Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics. "Bingham knows the indie world as well as anyone alive and is admired for his experience and for always delivering for filmmakers. He'll be a big asset to SnagFilms' expansion."
In addition, SnagFilms intends to use its new growth capital to expand its indieWIRE unit, now in its 15th year as the leading web source of news, reviews and analysis of independent film. “indieWIRE’s traffic is now ten times what it was when we purchased it two and a half years ago,” Allen said. “Before the Academy Awards are announced later this month, you’ll see new editor-in-chief Dana Harris add ongoing features to our coverage of the indie world, and exciting new blogs to our Network, like the recently-added blog The Playlist.”
SnagFilms features free ad-supported viewing of more than 2,000 award-winning titles from some of the greatest names in documentary film. All films are shareable across the web. Since its launch in July 2008, SnagFilms’ library has been featured on over 2 billion web pageviews, with more than 325 million minutes of SnagFilms titles streamed across over more than 100,000 affiliated sites and webpages, including through partners such as Aol, Comcast, Hulu, the Starbucks Digital Network, IMDb, the Miami Herald, hundreds of non-profits, special interest sites and blogs. SnagFilms also offers selected titles via VOD (with Comcast and FiOS), on iTunes and through a new free application for the iPad.
OVGuide has twice named SnagFilms a Top Site and MovieMaker Magazine named SnagFilms to its annual list of “50 Best Websites for Moviemakers.”
The company was founded by digital entrepreneur, documentary film producer, professional sports teams’ owner and philanthropist Ted Leonsis, and is additionally backed by AOL co-founder and Revolution LLC Chairman, Steve Case; philanthropist and former digital executive Jean Case; operating executive and philanthropic venture capitalist Miles Gilburne; a group led by Ted and Jim Pedas, founders of Circle Films; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The SnagFilms family also includes indieWIRE, for more than 14 years the web’s top source of news, reviews and information about independent film.
For more than 30 years, NEA has been helping to build great companies. With committed capital of $11 billion and the experience of funding more than 650 companies (including Groupon, 3com, TiVo, Macromedia, Playdom, Silicon Graphics, and CareerBuilder), NEA is the entrepreneur's venture capital firm, consistently ranking among the top firms in portfolio IPOs each year. Since its founding, the firm has backed more than 165 companies that have gone public and invested in more than 255 companies that have been successfully merged or acquired—more liquidity events than any other venture capital firm. For additional information, visit http://www.nea.com.
About Comcast Interactive Capital
Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC) is a $500M venture capital fund focused on broadband, consumer web, advanced advertising, and enterprise businesses. CIC is affiliated with Comcast Corporation, a diversified global leader in cable, broadband services, communications, media, and entertainment. CIC’s primary goal is to generate superior financial returns from venture capital investments in early and growth-stage technology, consumer and services businesses. To achieve this goal, CIC works to enable the success of its portfolio companies by applying the unique resources, contacts, experience, and insight of both CIC and the Comcast family of companies.