- Triller Network, owner of the Triller video-sharing app, acquired livestreaming platform Verzuz, Billboard first reported. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
- Verzuz founders Swizz Beatz and Timbaland will join the Triller Verzuz management team as part of the deal while becoming "large shareholders" in Triller Network, per the report. The two Grammy-winning artists started Verzuz last March at the start of the pandemic, building a service that has different musical artists "battle" through competing performances.
- As Triller Network fights to carve out a niche in the social video space, the move could bolster its appeal while opening access to a deeper roster of musical talent who might help to keep users engaged.
Triller Network rounds out a specialization in music-oriented social video in acquiring Verzuz, a livestreaming service that has gained traction over the course of the pandemic. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland debuted the service as an Instagram Live series last year, and it has evolved to include tie-ups with other apps like Apple Music and Twitter, Pitchfork reported, while expanding its content beyond the initial battle performance format.
Dozens of popular musicians, including John Legend, Alicia Keys and D'Angelo, have shown up on the platform. As part of the deal, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland will dilute some of their equity stake in Triller Network to the artists who have already performed on Verzuz, per Billboard. Giving artists a bigger piece of the pie could serve as a draw to talent looking for a home while live concerts remain on hold in many parts of the U.S.
The news follows some significant setbacks for Triller Network in its quest to create a social media business that can compete with red-hot apps like TikTok, often positioned as its main competitor. In February, Universal Music Group (UMG) yanked its catalog from Triller, alleging the app had failed to pay licensing fees for its songs. Triller had an agreement with UMG through 2020, which the label was looking to extend before pulling the plug due to Triller's supposed lack of interest, according to Variety. Triller claims UMG's decision came out of left field and that it doesn't need to re-up the licensing deal to go on.
Meanwhile, some of Triller Network's bets at diversifying its video offerings have hit roadblocks. TrillerTV, a bid to break into linear-style TV programming, was met with technical glitches upon its mid-February launch, as reported in Ad Age.
That said, Triller has continued to attract brands and artists alike. NYX Professional Makeup leveraged the app as a virtual pop-up shop and performance space for singer Bebe Rexha as part a promotion around the holidays. Pepsi in December partnered with Fat Joe to host a hip-hop contest — not unlike Verzuz programming — through the app. Finalists competed in a livestreamed event from the Triller House in Atlanta, a collaborative space the platform created to accommodate influencers.
The Verzuz news builds on other recent mobile deals around music-oriented services. Square, the digital payments company, acquired a majority stake in streamer Tidal for $297 million earlier in March.