Photobucket CEO sounds off on Fox acquisition

Alex Welch tells CNET News.com that there had never really been any plan to become a MySpace division--Fox Interactive was the prospective buyer the whole time.

Earlier today it was made official, after much speculation, that Photobucket had been acquired by Fox Interactive Media, a division of News Corp. CNET News.com spoke with Photobucket CEO and co-founder Alex Welch on Wednesday morning to hash out some of the rumors and talk about what's in store for the popular image-sharing site.

According to Welch, the company put itself up for sale in order to accelerate growth beyond its current membership base of approximately 42 million. "When we look at Fox, it was really a natural choice for Photobucket because we really want to grow out our brand globally," he said. "It was really about taking that next step much sooner and much faster."

Rumors had suggested that the acquisition would be on the part of the Fox Interactive-owned MySpace, but as it turns out, Photobucket will be an individual Fox Interactive property--not a division of MySpace. "All of our discussions have been directly with Fox Interactive Media," Welch explained. "Photobucket is going to be acquired by Fox Interactive, and Photobucket is going to remain a standalone company within Fox Interactive."

Photobucket will indeed remain intact, but Welch said that the company has "a very detailed product roadmap over the next couple years" concerning its new involvement with Fox Interactive. He hinted that some of the company's other brands, like gaming site IGN.com, may come into play.

Tech news junkies have probably been wondering exactly how the deal came to fruition, considering the much-publicized spat between Photobucket and MySpace when the social networking site decided to block all videos and slideshows from Photobucket last month. The conflict, which stemmed from Photobucket's advertising tie-ins with Spider-Man 3, was eventually resolved. But then acquisition rumors started to swirl, and it all seemed a little bit disjointed.

Obviously, a lot of the details can't be publicly disclosed. But Welch was able to say that that was because Photobucket had been in discussion with Fox Interactive, not its MySpace division. There hadn't initially been much communication between the acquisition talks with Fox Interactive and the terms-of-service debate with MySpace. "We'd been in discussion with a number of parties, including Fox. The incident that happened was between Photobucket and MySpace, not Photobucket and Fox. It was an isolated incident," Welch said. "We resolved the issues by opening up discussions between the companies," and then the acquisition talks with Fox Interactive were able to continue while Photobucket's widgets returned to MySpace.

From what it sounds like, things appear to be running smoothly now.

The announcement from Fox Interactive on Wednesday also revealed that, as rumored, the company had acquired media mashup tool Flektor . But Welch said that there isn't any immediate collaboration between Photobucket and Flektor--yet. Instead, Photobucket is going to focus on its own growth. "As of right now, we're going to continue to build our our toolset to really satisfy our users, to give them really interesting things to do with media."

 

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