SXSW and Penske Media Strike Investment and Long-Term Partnership Deal

Dana Harris-Bridson and Eric Kohn
·2 min read

IndieWire and Sportico parent company Penske Media’s P-MRC Holdings has invested in SXSW, the robust set of conferences and festivals that have been held in Austin for 34 years, IndieWire reports. The partnership aligns P-MRC as a long-term partner and SXSW shareholder, with the company utilizing SXSW as an opportunity for all of its media brands.

The essence of the events, and its management, are expected to remain intact while expanding SXSW’s potential for new events and business models. SXSW and P-MRC are now developing the March 2022 event in Austin. P-MRC is a joint venture between Penske Media Corporation and MRC, whose holdings include Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, Variety, and Vibe.

P-MRC will reportedly take a 50% stake in the business, which last hosted its physical edition in 2019. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the news.

“It has been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included,” SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson said in a statement. “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.”

The deal was finalized by Penske Media chairman and CEO Jay Penske and Swenson, who co-founded SXSW in 1987 with Nick Barbaro, Louis Black, and Louis Jay Meyers.

“We are grateful and proud to become enduring partners with SXSW, and collaborate with its exceptional team,” Penske said. “Since 1987, SXSW has been the world’s premier festival centered at the convergence of tech, media, film, and music. 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.”

The city of Austin canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the 2021 edition was virtual. Originally the brainchild of Austin Chronicle editors who wanted to capture the spirit of the local music scene, the event expanded to include its film festival in 1994. Its sensibilities helped inform the early days of IndieWire, which launched in 1996.

SXSW ballooned into a national event that welcomed thousands of people to downtown Austin each year, with keynote speakers ranging from Johnny Cash to astronaut Richard Garriot. SXSW blossomed into a cultural breeding ground for music, technology, and microbudget American cinema.

SXSW is scheduled to take place March 11-20, 2022.

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