Kevin Mayer, co-CEO of Candle Media, gave a look under the hood of the fast-growing Blackstone-backed media company he runs with Tom Staggs at the opening keynote of the 2022 MIPTV international television market on Monday.

Mayer took the stage together with Rene Rechtman, CEO of Moondog Entertainment, the kids’ entertainment group that Candle acquired for a reported $3 billion in a deal in November.

Mayer pointed to Moonbug’s approach, focusing on original content with a proven audience reach, as key to the kind of business Candle is looking to invest in. Moonbug acquires exclusive intellectual property from YouTube creators, which it then builds out and repackages for other platforms, while spinning off merchandising and other licensing opportunities. Alongside such hit kids’ shows as CoComelon and Blippi, Moonbug recently acquired YouTube network Little Angel in February, which boasts more than 88 million subscribers.

“Audience is the first focus for us,” said Rechtman. “When you go and acquire IP that has a (big) audience, you have a big advantage.”

Mayer said Candle’s other headline-making deals, including its $900 million acquisition of a majority stake in Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine, which produces Big Little Lies and The Morning Show, its agreement to buy Fauda producer Faraway Road in Israel, and its taking a minority stake in Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook Inc. were part of the same approach of finding companies that have “content” and “community” — meaning audience — and potential for “commerce” or increased monetization.

Mayer dodged the question of whether Will Smith’s slapping of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars will have any impact on the Westbrook brand, diplomatically calling Westbrook a “great company” with “great projects… . It’s a very big company. We have a 10 percent stake. That’s where we are now. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

In addition to buying more content companies, Mayer said Candle would be looking to do deals akin to Hello Sunshine’s recent acquisition of household organizing company The Home Edit. Hello Sunshine produces the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Get Organized With the Home Edit, which features Home Edit founders Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

“We thought: if you’re a fan of Home Edit, you might be amenable to buying the home organizing products that The Home Edit provide. So we went and bought the underlying company, which puts us squarely in the commerce territory,” noted Mayer.

What Candle won’t do, Mayer said, is launch its own streaming platform or sell out to a studio or streamer. “We do not have our own streaming service, and we’re not going to have our own distribution outlets, we will be independent, which I think is really important because independence these days is more vital than ever,” said Mayer, noting that as the major studios pull their content from streamers to feed their own vertically-integrated platforms, the demand for independently-sourced content will only grow.

“The demand for content is going to continue to grow extremely robustly in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “And if you’re independent, where there’s not a huge amount of quality products out there, [well] I like our chances there.”

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