In a deal that underscores the growing importance of digital platforms for reaching young audiences, DreamWorks Animation said it is acquiring the YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV for $33 million in cash.
Under terms of the agreement, DreamWorks will pay the up-front cash consideration and there are incentives that could ultimately make the acquisition ultimately worth as much as $117 million, if AwesomenessTV achieves certain performance goals over the next two years.
"AwesomenessTV is one of the fastest growing content channels on the Internet today and our acquisition of this groundbreaking venture will bring incredible momentum to our digital strategy," DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a statement.
YouTube's head of content, Robert Kyncl, played the role of matchmaker in this merger, urging Katzenberg to meet AwesomenessTV's founder, Brian Robbins. Kyncl often points to the success of the teen network to underscore YouTube's potential for reaching audiences.
The deal came together less than a month after that initial meeting, said United Talent Agency Chief Executive Jeremy Zimmer, whose agency helped Robbins develop the business plan for AwesomenessTV and assisted in negotiating the DreamWorks deal.
"Brian has demonstrated, over the years, a really consistent ability to create television programming that appeals to kids and teens ... and a real understanding of both the creative side and the business side of that marketplace," Zimmer said. "DreamWorks is looking for someone who can help them move into television and digital."
The deal underscores the changing media landscape and the desire of traditional entertainment companies to connect with young, digitally attuned audiences. Last June, Alloy Digital bought YouTube's Clevver Media, and a month later, Legendary Entertainment reached an agreement to buy comedian Chris Hardwick's Nerdist Industries, which operates a popular YouTube channel.
The AwesomenessTV deal is believed to be the largest such acquisition.
Robbins, a former actor turned producer, will continue to operate AwesomenessTV, which he launched last June in an effort to reach young teen and tween viewers, who are gravitating to new screens for their entertainment. The YouTube channel's original programming has attracted nearly 500,000 subscribers and more than 100 million views.
Since the debut of AwesomenessTV, Robbins' new-media company has built a network of 55,000 YouTube channels, which together account for 14 million subscribers and more than 800 million views.
As a DreamWorks executive, Robbins will help the Glendale studio develop a digital family channel that would harness the studio's resources and pantheon of characters.
"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," Robbins said in a statement.
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