Here's the changing of an era: Pearson has sold off its consumer-facing edutainment business, FEN (Family Education Network) to London-based investment group, Sandbox Partners. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Family Education Network represents a combination of top destinations for parents, teachers and students including Funbrain, Funbrain Jr., Infoplease, Teacher Vision, Fact Monster and FamilyEducation. FEN reportedly has a audience of children, parents and teachers that totals 25 million visits per month, according to company statements.
Pearson had snapped up the Boston-based FEN, then the largest home-school community, in 2000 for $129 million. At the time, the FEN group was reportedly receiving 50 million page views per month. It was a part of an aggressive plan by Pearson to dominate the education market.
“In seizing this opportunity, we are opening up a new and rapidly growing market for our education business while creating educational opportunities for every age and every stage of learning,” said Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s chief executive, according eSchool News, back in August 2000. “We aim to work with FEN, Classroom Connect, and all our partners to make the Learning Network the place to go for online learning."
Instead Pearson's now bowing out of that business.
FEN's new acquirers should know it well; many were former Pearson exec's including the founder of Sandbox Partners, Bhav Singh. He started the firm in 2014, aiming to focus one the crossroads of digital learning and media.
In January, Sandbox Partners led a "multi-million pound equity investment round" for another investment, UK-based Hopster, which produces a fast-growing TV and learning app for children ages 2-6 years. Featured shows include Bob the Builder, Paddington Bear and Babar. (Hopster had previously received angel investments from TV’s Davina McCall, Tony Orsten (The Imaginarium, twofour54) and Bhav Singh (formerly Pearson, Viacom).
In a statement, Singh noted that “Engaging digital media and informal learning for kids are spaces we are hugely passionate about, so FEN was a clear choice. There is massive potential in the kids’ edutainment space, especially in game-based learning, and we’re excited about growing FEN together with Jeff Kinney’s creative guidance and Jess Brallier’s leadership, and helping to bring the brands to new markets.” (Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is the creative director at Poptropica.)