Behind the Deal: How AwesomenessTV and DreamWorks Came to a $33M Agreement

/ May 31, 2013

Brian Robbins of AwesomenessTV

When DreamWorks acquired AwesomenessTV, it was a seismic moment for the web video industry, if only because of the price tag — for $33 million (also, in addition, maybe up to $117 million “should the channel meet traffic and other performance levels over the next two years,” according to Variety’s Marc Graser), a major Hollywood studio had acquired a channel that didn’t even exist a year ago.

It’s a big amount of money, for a big deal that will let AwesomenessTV operate as a stand-alone company with the security of a major corporation behind it. “It means being part of one of the top global family brands and benefiting from DreamWorks Animation’s strategic vision and cutting-edge technology, not to mention the ‘brain-power’ of [DreamWorks Animation CEO] Jeffrey Katzenberg,” AwesomenessTV founder Brian Robbins said via email. “Jeffrey Katzenberg is involved in strategic planning and vision, but not content on a day-to-day basis.”

“With DreamWorks Animation we will have the ability to scale the AwesomenessTV business in a way that would be otherwise impossible,” he added.

One interesting twist to the deal — it came together quickly, and was finalized even faster than that, thanks to an unfortunate information leak. According to Robbins, he and Katzenberg were introduced by YouTube VP Robert Kyncl after “Jeffrey was made aware of our success and saw an opportunity for DreamWorks to be a part of something new and exciting,” and the month following saw them putting together the deal.

But before the deal was ready, according to an unnamed source, came the AllThingsD report by Peter Kafka that the deal was happening — which was published before the deal was finalized. Thus, things got kicked into overdrive, with everyone involved having to cram together the final deal in less than 24 hours, and all parties in lockdown.

What made AwesomenessTV attractive to Jeffrey Katzenberg? The obvious answer is its large teen/tween audience, which Robbins and his team have scaled dramatically in the 11 months prior to launch. How’d it do that? An emphasis on mobile. “Teens are critical to AwesomenessTV’s growth. They inform our content and our platform,” Robbins said. “For teens, their devices provide a gateway to their community of friends, and more importantly, to consuming the content they love. Over 50 percent of our AwesomenessTV channel views and comments are coming from mobile.”

In addition, though, when asked what other MCNs might consider doing to attract similar deals, Robbins said “For AwesomenessTV, our MCN is about discovery and building community. We’re building a community around creating, curating and consuming content that is a talent discovery platform and social network powered by YouTube. YouTube super stars and stars of tomorrow benefit from our ability to help them find and grow their audience on YouTube and beyond by leveraging our marketing, brand and production expertise. It’s going to be different for other MCNs.”

And this isn’t the last deal like this we’re bound to see in the upcoming months. “All these big companies know they need to figure the space out,” Robbins said. “I think there will be a desire from those companies to buy their way in.”

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