Broadcast veteran MacMillan buys GlassBox Television stake

A media company headed by veteran broadcast executive Michael MacMillan is set to acquire a controlling interest in broadcast and digital publishing company GlassBox Television. Financial terms of the deal, which was announced Monday, were not disclosed. MacMillan’s Blue Ant Media will initially acquire a 29.9% interest in GlassBox from existing shareholders. GlassBox has also […]

A media company headed by veteran broadcast executive Michael MacMillan is set to acquire a controlling interest in broadcast and digital publishing company GlassBox Television. Financial terms of the deal, which was announced Monday, were not disclosed.

MacMillan’s Blue Ant Media will initially acquire a 29.9% interest in GlassBox from existing shareholders. GlassBox has also accepted an offer that will see Blue Ant acquire a minimum 75% ownership stake in the company, pending CRTC approval.

MacMillan, the former head of specialty TV broadcaster Alliance Atlantis, described GlassBox’s three content pillars–music, comedy and travel–as “fertile” areas offering considerable growth opportunity.

He compared GlassBox’s current standing within the Canadian advertising landscape to that of Alliance Atlantis in its early days, when it was viewed as a fringe player before going on to demonstrate its value to advertisers with a series of highly targeted channels.

“Innovation and new ways of doing things will again be rewarded,” said MacMillan, citing GlassBox’s ongoing development of its online and mobile channels.

Established in 2005, GlassBox currently operates the digital channels Bite TV, AUX TV and the newly acquired Travel + Escape, as well as their digital properties. It also sells Canadian inventory on several marquee web properties, including AllMusic.com, NME.com, Spike.com and VH1.com, which reach an estimated two million unique visitors each month.

“We were on the path of trying to build a new, strong independent player in the Canadian marketplace that really understood digital platforms and digital technology in an intimate fashion,” GlassBox co-founder Raja Khanna told Marketing on Monday. “The really successful companies of the future will understand all of these platforms and be able to deliver audience engagement in unique ways to advertisers.”

The addition of MacMillan’s team, he said, “recharges” that plan. “Now we have the depth and experience of people that built channels like HGTV and Life around the table with us, and Michael brings an incredible reputation on the business side that will only help us as we grow our business beyond the three channels we have today.”

Asked if he aspires to transform GlassBox into a media entity as successful of Alliance Atlantis, which was acquired by the former Canwest Global Communications for $2.3 billion in 2007, Khanna responded, “Why stop there?”

The company’s objective, he said, is to be number one in both online and mobile in each of its content offerings within the next 12 months. “No bones about it, we’re trying to be top in the game,” he said, noting that there is also a “sizeable opportunity” for the Travel + Escape channel with the right investment in content and marketing.

“This is a story in its early chapters; we’re not in a place today where I can say we’ve achieved all our goals on the advertising side, but is the right momentum there? Absolutely.”

Ad revenues for Bite were a modest $144,121 in 2009 according to the CRTC, but the company has built several custom marketing programs, including a comedy search sponsored by Harvey’s called Stand Up and Bite Me, and a show launched in tandem with apparel retailer West 49 called West 49 Ambition Skatecamp.

“We may not be the biggest media company out there, but we think we’re among the most innovative and hard-working,” said Khanna. “We’re here to deliver real engagement.”

Monday’s deal has also led to a restructuring of the GlassBox management team, with MacMillan assuming the new position of executive chairman and Khanna becoming CEO.

Khanna’s fellow GlassBox co-founder, Jeffrey Elliott, assumes the new role of president and chief strategy officer. It was also announced that former CHUM Limited president and CEO Jay Switzer is stepping down as chair of GlassBox’s board of directors, a position he assumed in May 2010.

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