South by Southwest has signed a “lifeline” deal with P-MRC, a joint venture between Penske Media Corporation and MRC, the companies announced Sunday night, making P-MRC a stakeholder and long-term partner with the Austin music, film and tech festival.
P-MRC’s holdings include Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, Variety and Vibe, among others. The company is reportedly taking a 50% stake in SXSW and plans to bring its “media expertise and new avenues for discovery” to the iconic event, while looking for expansion opportunities with new events and business models.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the news.
“We are grateful and proud to become enduring partners with SXSW, and collaborate with its exceptional team. Since 1987, SXSW has been the world’s premier festival centered at the convergence of tech, media, film, and music,” said chairman and CEO of Penske Media Jay Penske in a release. “Today SXSW continues to be one of the most recognized brands for empowering creative talent and bringing together the brightest creators of our time. As part of this significant investment, we plan to build upon SXSW’s incredible foundation while extending the platform further digitally and assisting Roland and his incredible team to bring their vision to even greater heights.”
SXSW was one of the first major live events to be shut down due to the pandemic in 2020. At the time of the cancellation, organizers for the Austin festival stated that they were “devastated” by the news and lamented that they event had not failed to take place for 34 years prior.
The last-minute forced cancellation was difficult for the festival as well as Austin’s music community. In 2019, city officials estimated that South by Southwest had a $356 million economic impact on the city of Austin.
“It has been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included,” said CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson in a release. “When Jay Penske approached us with an interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us. Both of our companies share a passion for producing high quality content that helps shape modern culture, so this feels like a natural alliance. Now we are focused on the March 2022 event, and we’re honored to embark on a new chapter of SXSW with both his experience and the capabilities of P-MRC at our side.”
In 2021, SXSW went virtual for its annual festival with priority for panels, showcases and exhibitions going to artists and attendees who had been scheduled for the 2020 edition. Next year the festival plans to resume its in-person event from March 11-20.
According to Sunday’s announcement, SXSW’s management team and core business will remain unchanged in keeping its focus on the March 2022 event in Austin. The new partnership will be pursuing the exploration of new capabilities in providing quality programming to its diverse community of highly engaged creative professionals.