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Another YouTube Network Sells: RTL Picks Up StyleHaul and Its Fashion-Focused Audience

The deal isn't a surprise, but the price tag is.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

StyleHaul, the big YouTube fashion network that went on sale earlier this year, has a buyer: One of the big media companies that had already bet on the company.

RTL Group, the European TV and radio conglomerate which had put $6 million into StyleHaul in 2013, will pay another $107 million to take control of the company. RTL says the deal values StyleHaul at $151 million.

There’s another $50 million in potential earn-outs available, and RTL says it will also put in another $20 million to fund the company’s expansion. StyleHaul had raised $17 million altogether, including an investment from Bertelsmann, the media giant that also owns a majority stake in RTL.

The deal isn’t a surprise, since StyleHaul had hired a banker this summer. Last month, Variety reported that RTL was closing in on a purchase.

The price tag, though, will raise some eyebrows with lots of digital video pros, who had predicted that StyleHaul would end up somewhere in the $60 million to $80 million range.

Earlier this summer, when one of StyleHaul’s backers told me the company could fetch $200 million to $300 million, I didn’t bother to print that estimate, because I didn’t want to look like the kind of person who just typed what people told me. Turns out there’s some merit to that approach. (Sometimes!)

StyleHaul is one of several big YouTube networks that had talked about building updated versions of powerful cable channels, which could ultimately be worth billions, and then ended up selling this year.

Disney, most notably, acquired Maker Studios, and will end up paying between $500 million and $950 million for the network. And Otter Media, the joint venture between The Chernin Group and AT&T, bought Fullscreen in a deal that valued that network between $200 million and $300 million.

StyleHaul’s network of viewers is considerably smaller than Maker’s and Fullscreen’s — StyleHaul CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski says she attracts a billion views a month, and both Maker and Fullscreen are over 6 billion.

But StyleHaul’s videos are narrowly aimed on girls and young women, and the stuff they want to wear and buy — “haul” videos are a YouTube phenomenon where video makers sit in front of a camera and show off the stuff they just purchased. Horbaczewski, a former Saks Fifth Avenue executive, says her focus has allowed her to make convincing pitches to advertisers.

She says she has also been able to diversify beyond the ads that run before and next to her videos on YouTube — she says that only half of her revenue comes from “media units on Google-owned platforms.” That means she’s able to do deals directly with advertisers to integrate their brands into her clips.

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