Years after being the most popular social network in the UK, and one of the pioneers of social media around the web, the Friends Reunited website was sold by ITV to DC Thompson for 25 million British pounds. The sale was initially predicted at £15 million pounds, but ITV managed to cut its losses and raise the price on the whole package.
The Friends Reunited website is comprised of a social network area, an online dating service, online shop and a genealogy business. All of these packages were acquired by Brightsolid, a subsidiary of DC Thompson, which intends to drop all other features and re-brand it as a genealogy portal (according to Brand Republic).
The sale went even better than many analysts from The Guardian expected, predictions having Friends Reunited around the 15 million pound mark. With a £25 million price tag, the social network brought an 86% loss to ITV, from the original acquisition cost. The British media corporation didn't lose that much though, since only in 2007, the website had a profit of over £22 million.
Friends Reunited was created in 1999 and was sold in 2005 by its original owners, Steve and Julie Pankhurst, to ITV for 175 million pounds. According to The Guardian, the sale followed a three-year performance plan, and ITV reserved the possibility to opt out of the sale if those targets weren't achieved for only £55 million. Even though all targets were reached, website traffic slowly went down because of the high membership fee and similar free services provided by Facebook, MySpace or hi5.
To salvage what remained, ITV went with an advertising revenue plan and decided to drop the membership fee in March 2009, but with no immediate success. From the eighth most accessed site in UK (2005 ranking), Friends Reunited plummeted to the 243rd position in 2009. Traffic went down, and the website was surpassed in the UK by similar sites like Facebook and Bebo.