Information about the YouTube giant’s sudden closure
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
The internet breathed a sad sigh on March 25 when YouTube entertainment giant SourceFed shut down for good. SourceFed was one of the only success stories to come out of YouTube’s 2012 Original Channel Initiative, which saw Google invest over 300 million dollars into growing “channels” instead of towards “creators.” The difference being that the channels would be more of a collective effort with heavy production values, as opposed to user-driven content that focused on individual, independent creators. The initiative was an undeniable flop, with many of the channels going belly up.
One thing that did manage to stay relevant was Phillip DeFranco’s brainchild: SourceFed, which focussed mainly on reporting news and commenting on technology and pop-culture. It catered to internet geeks everywhere, featuring various programs that highlighting everything from music to engineering. In 2013 DeFranco sold SourceFed to Revision3, which was owned by Discovery Communications. This launched Discovery’s foray into digital media.
In 2016, Discovery decided to back a merger that would have Thrillist Media, SourceFed Studios, The Dodo, NowThis Media, and Seeker all combine under the umbrella corporation of Group Nine Media, in which Discovery Communications would receive a 35 per cent stake. Group Nine Media is currently headed by the founder of Thrillist, Ben Lerer.
On March 20, SourceFed announced that they would be shutting down within the week. Based off of reactions by SourceFed host Steven Suptic and former host Reina Scully, news of the closure was not communicated to the SourceFed team until shortly before the announcement took place. Many of SourceFed’s former employees—including program hosts, producers, writers, animators etc.—took to social media, expressing their discontent over how the closure was handled, and how they suddenly found themselves unexpectedly unemployed.
Though Discovery claims that they had no say in the decision by Group Nine Media to shut down SourceFed, many people remain suspect due to a contingency Discovery acquired before their backing of the merger. In late 2016, before the merger occurred, Discovery agreed to receive the 35 per cent stake in Group Nine Media, as mentioned before. This placed them as the second largest shareholder in the company, right behind Axel Springer SE—a European digital publishing house. Discovery took the 35 per cent initially, but with a catch that they would be allowed to acquire a greater share in the company at a later date. This means that they could be the controlling shareholder within the next year or so, if they so choose.
Knowing that, it becomes a little sketchy that Discovery would choose to sacrifice such a large aspect of their digital media branch to Lerer, who has a vested interest in promoting his own creation, Thrillist.
Whether this is true—or SourceFed had simply found itself living on borrowed time—is unclear, and will remain so until the higher-ups at Group Nine Media choose to address the closure in a more detailed fashion.