Friday, October 26, 2018 - 13:00

Media company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment has acquired Truli Media, focused on Christian and “family friendly” content, the latest move in its strategy to assemble a lineup of VOD assets aligned with the parent company’s uplifting and inspirational brand.

Financial terms of the transaction are not being disclosed. Bill Rouhana Jr., chairman and CEO of CSS Entertainment, said the acquisition is largely structured around a revenue-sharing arrangement for profits generated by the Truli business.

Truli brings CSS Entertainment 2,500 hours of licensed programming and faith-based online video channels, along with more than 600,000 Facebook followers. Truli’s free-to-watch content includes weekly sermons and live-streamed Christian TV networks as well as music videos, film and TV content, sports, comedy and educational material. It also distributes podcasts and digital magazines.

“For us, it was a good fit across the board on pretty much every level,” Rouhana (pictured above) told Variety. “The kind of content they have is very Chicken Soup-consistent –- it’s family friendly, broadly faith based, and there’s a heavy emphasis on Spanish-language content as well.”

The deal builds on CSS Entertainment’s prior scoop-ups. In August 2018, the company bought Pivotshare, a subscription VOD service with channels across categories including music, sports, religion, arts and culture, lifestyle and family, in a $4.35 million deal. That came after CSS Entertainment’s November 2017 deal to acquire Screen Media, an indie film and TV show distributor which also operated free video-streaming service Popcornflix, in a deal valued at $5.5 million. And in 2016, CSS Entertainment entered into a deal with Ashton Kutcher to acquire majority control of A Plus, the actor’s “positive journalism” media startup.

CSS Entertainment has raised capital since its 2014 founding through a variety of mechanisms, including an IPO under the SEC’s Reg A+ regulation that raised $30 million, a $7.5 million loan and $13.7 million through an unusual security called a “redeemable perpetual preferred stock offering.”

The company is not profitable. For the second quarter of 2018, CSS Entertainment reported total revenue of $3.1 million and a net loss of $1.4 million. Most of the revenue was from Screen Media’s TV and film distribution biz. But going forward, Rouhana expects the company’s expanded VOD portfolio to start throwing off more cash, pegging more than $5 million in VOD revenue in 2018.

With the deal for Truli Media, CSS Entertainment plans to create a Truli-branded subscription channel through Pivotshare, and also expects to include some of Truli’s family content on the Popcornflix Kids channel.

Truli Media was founded in 2010 by Michael Jay Solomon, a media exec who previously co-founded Telepictures and worked at Warner Bros. Television, MCA and United Artists. He will remain involved in Truli in an advisory capacity. CSS Entertainment is bringing over three employees of Truli.

CSS Entertainment is in the hunt for additional streaming-video companies to acquire, Rouhana said. “Single-channel VOD has not quite been able to come to fruition for a lot of players,” he said, noting that Truli had not yet started to monetize its OTT content.

Rouhana in 2008 acquired Chicken Soup for the Soul LLC, a privately held company that is the parent of CSS Entertainment, from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series creators Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield. The books have sold more than 100 million copies in the U.S. and Canada alone, and the company also sells a line of pet food.

In addition to building out its VOD strategy, CSS Entertainment has produced and sold several TV shows, including reality series “Project Dad” for Discovery Family and “Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hidden Heroes” for CBS. This summer, it launched production of a new series, “The Fixer,” executive produced by Kutcher and hosted by Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg Inc., aimed at helping millennials overcome financial struggles.

According to Rouhana, CSS Entertainment’s TV productions are on pace to exceed commitments for more than 60 half-hour episodes. The way Rouhana explains it, the shows the company is producing will eventually become part of the company’s VOD offerings.

Rouhana, prior to his involvement with Chicken Soup for the Soul, was founder and CEO of wireless broadband provider Winstar Communications and Winstar New Media, one of the earliest online content companies, from 1993 to 2001, worked as an entertainment and finance lawyer from 1977 to 1985.