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AwesomenessTV gets a(nother) new boss

The acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by NBC Universal will see majority shares of the media co. move under the Comcast banner.
April 28, 2016

Ownership of the teen-focused production studio and MCN AwesomenessTV has seen some dramatic changes in the last month, and the turbulence is not over yet.

Earlier in April, U.S. telco Verizon, fast becoming a serious player in the digital video industry, shored up a 24.5% stake in the Gen Z-focused media company.

Now, with the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by NBC Universal (a division of Comcast Corp.), majority shares of Awesomeness have moved under a whole new banner.

Under the terms of the Comcast deal, confirmed April 28, Dreamworks will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango and NBCU Brand Development.

Dreamworks CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will become chair of DreamWorks New Media, which will be comprised of the company’s ownership interests in Awesomeness and Nova. Katzenberg will also serve as a consultant to NBCU.

The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of DreamWorks Animation and Comcast, and the controlling shareholder of DreamWorks Animation has approved the agreement by written consent. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2016, subject to antitrust approvals.

The deal brings DreamWorks Animation’s equity value to approximately $3.8 billion, according to a joint statement issued by NBCU.

Dreamworks Animation has, since 2013, been a majority owner of AwesomenessTV, which produces content for both digital platforms and linear television. The company is also behind the direct-to-consumer feature hit Expelled (pictured) and partnered with Defy Media on Smosh: The Movie. More recently, the company’s movie division, Awesomeness Films, began production on a new original film, You Get Me. 

The recent deal with Verizon saw Dreamworks’s ownership percentage in the company drop to 51%, with Hearst controlling the remaining minority share (24.5%). Awesomeness was valued at $650 million following the Verizon investment.

Katzenberg said in a statement the company’s storytelling abilities are expected to grow under the new ownership structure.

The deal brings Dreamsworks library of film, television, theme parks and consumer products to NBCU, giving the company a much-sought-after boost in its ability to reach an influencial consumer market of kids and families.

The acquisition gives NBCU access to DreamWorks’ most-popular film franchise properties, such as Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.  It also includes a TV operation that supplies family programming across linear and SVOD platforms in more than 130 countries.  Additionally, DreamWorks Classics, a large library of classic characters, including Where’s Waldo, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, will become part of the NBCU portfolio.

“Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks organization have created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property.  DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come,” said Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU, in a statement.

 Minority partners in Awesomeness, including Verizon and Hearst (24.5%), remain unchanged.

Comcast was advised by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP on legal matters. DreamWorks Animation was advised on financial matters by Centerview Partners and on legal matters by Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. DreamWorks Animation’s board of directors was advised on legal matters by Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

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