German broadcaster buys US dating site eharmony

ProSieben already owns stake in Parship Elite, a successful German dating business

ProSieben, which will merge eharmony with Parship Elite did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

ProSieben, which will merge eharmony with Parship Elite did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

 

ProSiebenSat.1, one of Germany’s largest media groups, has agreed to buy US dating website eharmony as part of its drive to create the world’s biggest online matchmaker.

ProSieben, which will merge eharmony with Parship Elite – the German group’s internet dating company – did not disclose financial terms of the deal. But one person briefed on the acquisition said it valued eharmony at $85 million (€75 million) – making it a surprisingly cheap date compared with rival Match, which has a market value of $13.7 billion (€12 billion).

Eharmony, which raised more than $100 million (€88 million) during just one fundraising round nearly 15 years ago, has spent more than $1 billion (€880 million) on marketing in recent years, according to the person.

Jan Kemper, ProSieben’s chief financial officer, declined to comment on the financial terms. He said love was a “global feeling”, suggesting the deal “may even build a bridge” between Germany and the US’s current trade tension.

Revolutionised matchmaking

The internet has revolutionised matchmaking with apps such as Tinder and OkCupid complementing established dating services such as Match.com – which are all owned by US group Match. There are sites for every demographic, religion and taste, from dating services aimed at farmers to Christian dating apps. Muzmatch, a UK-based dating site aimed at Muslims, ran a recent advertising campaign featuring a cartoon Lionel Richie and the slogan: Halal! Is it me you’re looking for?

Dating, whether for long-term relationships or brief encounters, has also been turbocharged by smartphone use: in the US, dating apps are the fastest growing type of app, next to grocery apps, according to eMarketer, the research group.

However, the sector was hit recently when Mark Zuckerberg announced plans for Facebook to enter the market, a move that hit shares in operators such as Match.

Mate selection

Eharmony was founded by Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist and Christian theologian who applied scientific methods to dating, with prospective daters asked to answer hundreds of questions in an effort to glean as much matchable information as possible. Dr Warren, whose online biography describes him as “one of America’s best-known experts on mate selection” came out of retirement in 2012 in an attempt to return eharmony to its former glory but left again in 2016.

The company, which initially resisted allowing gay people to use its service, was sued in 2005 for discrimination and launched a separate site aimed at gay couples.

The privately owned group has operations in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, whereas Parship is aimed at the German and Austrian market. “We have a more modern platform and will migrate eharmony to it,” Mr Kemper said. He added that eharmony’s focus on long-term relationships made it a good fit for Parship. “It’s the premier segment - people are willing to pay for that service.”

Grant Langston, eharmony’s chief executive, said the two companies would focus on “creating long-lasting, meaningful relationships”.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018