Dreamworks SKG once had a brilliant and noble dream: to emerge as the new powerhouse in the studio game — something not attempted since Sony bought the old MGM lot back at the end of the ‘80s.
But the company ended up overvaluing its reach and selling off all its assets in a firehouse sale, save for its lone moneymaking division: Dreamworks Animation. It was seen as a cautionary tale for companies trying to become too much too fast. But now, apparently, Dreamworks is attempting a social media comeback.
Valued at $33 million, but with a potential for up to $117 million, depending on whether financial goals are reached, Dreamworks Animation just purchased YouTube network AwesomenessTV.
AwesomenessTV, which focuses on the tween demographic, is an emerging, popular destination for youth-oriented content, and as such, it has been seen as a prime acquisition for media corporations. The lingering question is: Will it retain its hip cache now that it has “corporate ownership”?
The media savvy youth in this world have been borne with what seems like an intrinsic mistrust of corporate intervention. Several major companies have attempted to dabble in the social media game — most famously Fox, who paid $580 million for Myspace, only to sell the newly unhip company a couple years later for $35 million. Most companies have since resigned themselves to licensing deals and limited liability partnerships. So Dreamworks’ outright purchase is a bold trust that Awesomeness TV CEO Brian Robbins and his cadre of 57,000 channels can maintain their “cool.”
Hovering around 14.5 million subscribers, AwesomenessTV has already lost a few subscribers in the deal, with the departers citing Robbins “selling out” as the reason for their exodus. But Robbins will remain attached to the corporation, and with their contracts firmly in place, so will, for the time being, AwesomenessTV’s assortment of showrunners and personalities, which include Austin Mahone, Mindless Behavior and the web show “Cheerleaders.”
“The acquisition of AwesomenessTV by DreamWorks Animation speaks to Jeffrey’s [Katzenberg, Dreamworks’ head] vision for the future of entertainment, the immense appetite for new kinds of storytelling and the power and reach of YouTube,” Robbins mentioned to Deadline.com. “The incredible opportunity to take all the resources of this amazing global brand with beloved character franchises and create a dedicated family channel has extraordinary potential – I can’t wait to get started.”
The bottom line is that $33 million, even in the cash-heavy deal the acquisition is rumored to be, is affordable for the powerhouse animation studio responsible for such megahits as the “Shrek” franchise and “How To Train Your Dragon.” It is by no means a make-it-or-break-it deal for the studio, and as corporate America increasingly discovers that social media is firmly involved in the future, expect more independent companies to be snapped up by the bigs. In short, kids, don’t bother jumping ship — pretty soon all the ships are going to be flying corporate banners.