LA Tech Updates: Peacock Hits 10 Million Users; TikTok's $2 Billion Creator Fund Goes After Instagram, Youtube

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Peacock Hits 10 Million Users
  • TikTok Promises $2 Billion for Creators Over 3 Years as Rivalry with Facebook Heats Up

        Peacock hits 10 million users 

        Peacock Will Be Available on Google and Android Devices in July NBCUniversal

        NBCUniversal's new streaming service Peacock has hit 10 million users three months after its debut. The figure represents both new members who joined since July 15 when it launched for the general public and users who signed up in April when the platform opened exclusively to Comcast play TV customers.

        NBCUniversal is the latest to join the so-called streaming wars. Unlike some competitors, Peacock offers a free tier subscription for members to watch most content with ads. Last week, it rolled out a "Roll to Tokyo" channel dedicated to the 2021 Summer Olympics as one way to attract subscribers.

        Comcast Corp. reported the figures on Thursday during their second quarter earnings and it was a bright spot for the company.

        "Across the board, we're better than expectations," NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell told investors during their call. "We didn't expect this many sign-ups, we didn't expect people to come back as frequently as they're coming back and we didn't expect people to watch as long as they're watching once they come back."

        Executives have said their goal is to gain 30 million to 35 million users and $2.5 billion in revenue by 2024.

        TikTok Promises $2 Billion for Creators Over 3 Years as Rivalry with Facebook Heats Up

        TikTok announced it'll pay creators almost $2 billion over the next three years to support their careers online, a move that marks territory as rival Instagram's prepares to join the space with its service Reels.

        The Culver City-based company launched the TikTok Creator Fund last week to "encourage those who dream of using their voices and creativity to spark inspiration careers," TikTok General Manager Vanessa Pappas wrote in a blog post.

        The fund, which was originally set at $200 million before Thursday's update, will start accepting applications from U.S. creators in August.

        It's a signal that CEO Kevin Mayer has ratcheted up their efforts to take on competitors like YouTube and Instagram. On Wednesday he called Reels by Instagram, a Facebook owned company, a "copycat product."


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        On this week's episode of Office Hours, you'll hear from VC legend Bill Gurley, a general partner at Benchmark. Based in Silicon Valley, Bill is famously known for investing early in trailblazing companies including Uber, GrubHub and Zillow — the company I co-founded and led for 10 years.

        This is the first time I've had a guest on twice, and that's because Bill is so full of dense, rich insight when it comes to startup culture, tech and investing — dot.LA's sweet spot.

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        Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

        Today:

        • Apple Podcast Veteran Steve Wilson Joins Startup QCODE
        • Amazon in Exclusive Talks to Buy Podcast Studio Wondery, Wall Street Journal Reports
        • Pharrell Launches Black Ambition Incubator

          Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODE

          qcode www.sonos.com

          QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.

          QCODE, which last month raised $6.4 million in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood.

          Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.

          Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.

          Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy Wondery

          Hernan Lopez Hernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.

          Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

          The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.

          Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series.

          The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint.

          Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.

          After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA.

          Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.

          That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and recently expanded into podcasts as well.

          Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy.

          The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed.

          Pharrell Launches Black Ambition Incubator

          Pharrell Williams Pharrell Williams Launches Black Ambition Incubator

          Rapper and producer Pharrell Williams released "Entrepreneur" with Jay-Z earlier this summer, a song that became an anthem for Black ambition. Now, Williams is launching an incubator to put money behind his message.

          Called Black Ambition, the nonprofit aims to invest in Black and Latino startup founders, and it's beginning by creating two prize competitions set to close in July 2021. The effort backed by Adidas, Chanel and philanthropic organizations including The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Silicon Valley startup investor Ron Conway and Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti also contributed.


          The first competition will award up to $250,000 to current students or recent alumni from a historically Black college developing or in the seed stage of a company. Smaller prizes will be awarded to at least nine additional teams.

          The second competition, called the Black Ambition Prize, will give $1 million in seed money to an early-stage company focused on tech, design, healthcare or consumer products and services. Another nine teams will get smaller prizes. Finalists will be connected with and mentored by a network venture capitalists and angel investors.

          "Because we don't have enough of the market share, our kids end up having issues with disproportionate access to healthcare, disproportionate access to education and as a culture, we have disproportionate access as it pertains to legislation and representation," Williams said in a video announcing the news.

          Williams was inspired to pool talent from historically Black colleges and universities and build a new pipeline of investment and resources to young people.

          "We want to lift our HBCUs. They lift so many of us. They deserve to be in lights," Williams said. "We think it's high time that we own more companies.

          In August, Williams published a piece in Time Magazine that accompanied a cover spread on "The New American Revolution." It coincided with his release of "Entrepreneur," the song and music video he produced with Jay-Z as a tribute to Black founders across the nation.

          "Recent events and tragedies have illustrated the always existent stark divisions in the American experience, and while entrepreneurship has long been a tenet of the American dream, marginalized people have faced long-standing barriers to success," Williams said in a statement.

          Rapper and producer Pharrell Williams released "Entrepreneur" with Jay-Z earlier this summer, a song that became an anthem for Black ambition. Now, Williams is launching an incubator to put money behind his message.

          Called Black Ambition, the nonprofit aims to invest in Black and Latino startup founders, and it's beginning by creating two prize competitions set to close in July 2021. The effort is backed by Adidas, Chanel and philanthropic organizations including The Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. Silicon Valley startup investor Ron Conway and Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti also contributed.

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