Kevin Hart’s Media Company Sells $100 Million Stake to Private Equity

Kevin Hart has heard doomsday about the streaming industry that has caused a stir in Hollywood since Netflix reported last week that it has lost subscribers in recent months.

But Mr. Hart, a prolific actor and stand-up comedian, doesn’t buy it.

Mr Hart said in an interview from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was shooting a movie for Netflix. “If anything, it’s expanded now.”

Mr. Harten is a big supporter of his thesis. On Tuesday, Mr. Hartbeat, Hart’s media company, said it had raised $ 100 million from Boston-based private equity firm Ebry Partners. Ebry is buying a 15 per cent stake in Heartbeat, with people familiar with the deal saying the company is valued at more than 650 million.

This makes the deal Mr. Heart to the latest entertainment entrepreneur to tap private equity money spread across Hollywood. In the past year, Reese Witherspoon, LeBron James and Will Smith have sold all of their stake in their media businesses to companies that could stem the rising demand for content.

The valuation is partly due to the interest of the companies. Hello Sunshine, Ms. Company established by. Witherspoon was valued at about $ 1 billion in a deal with Kendall Media, a new company backed by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management. Moonbug Entertainment, owner of the hit children’s show “Cocomelon”, had a deal with Kendall Media worth about $ 3 billion.

Industry analyst Michael Nathanson said production deals with leading artists will become increasingly common as streamers focus on profitability. Media companies want shows and movies that have the best chance of winning new subscribers and name recognition is a reliable way to do that, he said.

Said Mr. Nathans.

Heartbeat is a new company focusing on comedy and cultural content created by the merger of two companies associated with Mr. Heart: Laugh Out Loud, a digital comedy firm conceived in 2016 by Lionsgate Film Studios and Mr. Hart, and Heartbeat Productions, Mr. Hart’s production company.

Mr. Hart, who controls Hartbeat, is stepping down as its chief executive but will remain chairman of its board. His successor will be Thai Randolph, who was chief operating officer at both Laugh Out Loud and Heartbeat Productions. Jeff Kleinagan, Mr. Hart’s longtime business partner will be the company’s chief distribution officer, and Brian Smiley, president of Heartbeat Productions’ film and TV, will be Hartbeat’s chief content officer.

NBC Universal’s Peacock streaming service, which has a deal that gives it its first chance to buy a TV show produced by Heartbeat, will continue as a minority investor in the joint venture. Heartbeat executives will also own the shares.

Ebry Partners did not respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Randolph said both Heartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud were profitable before the merger but declined to give details. More than 50 percent of Heartbeat’s revenue will come from its Studio Arm, which includes show-making deals for streamers such as Peacock and Netflix. (Past productions have included “Olympic Highlights,” the real-time sandup of the Summer Games, and the “Fatherhood,” Netflix film featuring Mr. Hart as a grieving father.) Licensing and brand consultancy work for companies including Sames Club.

Discussions about the merger began in earnest during a solitary confinement in July in Los Cabos, Mexico, where about 60 employees of both companies were reunited after months of remote work during the Covid-19 epidemic. Randolph said. In a hotel suite near the beach, officials set up a structure for the joint venture, which would include a senior leadership reshuffle.

Mr. Hart predicted that as a result of the competition between streaming services many big players compete for subscribers, each offering different content. He compared it to the athletic apparel industry, where established companies like Nike are constantly evolving. It will last as long as Heartbeat presents good shows, he said.

Mr. Hart said.

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