Why Did Jeffrey Katzenberg Buy AwesomenessTV? Mobile!

/ Sep 26, 2013

KatzenbergAdWeek

Why did Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, decide to buy AwesomenessTV (for what could be a very hefty sum)? It’s a question many have asked since the deal was announced prior to YouTube’s Brandcast event for advertisers in May. At the time, AwesomenessTV, a YouTube original programming channel catering to teens, had only been around for about a year. So it was a fair question then, and it’s still a fair question today.

During an Advertising Week NY session called “The Adolescence of Content Marketing,” in a panel moderated by MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, Katzenberg attempted to answer that question. And the answer? Mobile.

“Back in the 1950s when TV came along, it filled these gaps [in the day] that exist in our lives,” said Katzenberg, whether those gaps were the free time people had before work or after coming home from work but before dinner, or some other time.

Today, people continue to watch a lot of TV, he said, but with the arrival of new digital platforms, it’s opened up new “gaps” during which people are looking for something to do or watch. “Think of these [gaps] as the waiting time in our lives. There is an amazing amount of in-between time in which we find ourselves waiting — waiting at a bus stop, or for a train, or for a seat at a restaurant,” said Katzenberg. “What these devices have done is allowed us to fill that space. It started with texts and social media and casual gaming.” Ultimately, Katzenberg believes the “biggest opportunity” is in filling those gaps with high-quality “snack”-sized content, which he says AwesomenessTV does very well.

He claimed that AwesomenessTV is the top-ranked channel on YouTube in terms of engagement.

“Brian Robbins is an amazing storyteller,” added Katzenberg, citing Robbins’ experience as a producer on hit TV shows and films. “Today, he is producing very high-quality, short-form entertainment — high-quality both in terms of production value and storytelling,” said the DreamWorks CEO. “I think that real-estate is going to prove to be worth many, many, many millions of dollars.”

And it won’t be at the expense of traditional TV. “I don’t agree with that,” said Katzenberg. “They are mutually exclusive. In my mind they are not competing for the same real estate.”

If you’re looking for breaking news announcements, there was not much of that. Though Katzenberg did share that AwesomenessTV plans to launch additional owned channels focusing on boys, younger kids (ages 2-11), and eventually, moms. “If Brian can scale the enterprise and maintain quality, I think he’s going to have a blockbuster property,” said Katzenberg.

Katzenberg is confident Robbins will be able to. He finished the session with a boast that he acknowledged might be him “going out on a bad limb”: He said if Awesomeness launches channels for kids in the next six months, the combination of AwesomenessTV, Awesomeness X, and Awesomeness Kids will reach a number of daily actives that will be equal to or greater than TV channels from Disney, Nickelodeon, and other kids cable programmers.

At first glance, that feels like a very big prediction. But then you remember about how kids’ networks are complaining that services like Netflix are cannibalizing TV viewership, and how kids are increasingly screen-agnostic, and it doesn’t sound that crazy.

Header image via Sahil’s iPhone (sorry).

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