Comcast-NBCUniversal's digital moves continue. Just look at the past eight months alone. Last August, and in rapid succession, the media behemoth separately invested $200 million in Vox Media and BuzzFeed. Later, it launched its "Watchable" mobile OTT service. And earlier this year, it launched its full OTT platform "Seeso." And now this: DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, which includes digital-first media company AwesomenessTV (which initially focused on kids and teens, but is now branching out fast).
For some, DreamWorks' AwesomenessTV asset is just another "nice to have," next to Shrek and the gang. But, while Shrek is a giant in his own right, don't let his presence alone fool you. AwesomenessTV is a prized asset that casts a wide shadow all by itself, a presence much of "the business" does not fully understand. But understand this. AwesomenessTV is the poster child for a digital-first media company done right. Highly scalable. Highly profitable.
Its recipe? Unlike some in the digital-first space (including several companies formerly known as "MCNs"), AwesomenessTV always focused on these key ingredients to bake its success: (1) developing, producing and owning its own premium content (consistent with the creative DNA of its founder, Brian Robbins) rather than merely aggregating the content of others; (2) building a deep library of IP as a result that can be exploited over and over and over again (something it has done extremely well); (3) wrapping all of that content in the "AwesomenessTV" brand that it promotes above its individual creations and sub-brands and stands for something meaningful to its core audience—premium, compelling and safe kid- and teen-friendly content; and (4) monetizing across all platforms (both traditional and digital, including television and Netflix) in a model where licensing revenues come first and ad revenues second.
Just three weeks prior to Comcast's acquisition, fellow giant Verizon invested $159 million in AwesomenessTV for a 24.5% stake—thereby valuing the company at $650 million. That was nearly a 6X multiple for Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks Animation gang, who themselves acquired AwesomenessTV for about $115 million just three years earlier (in a deal that triggered the next two years of rapid-fire MCN M&A—Disney/Maker, Otter Media/Fullscreen, RTL/StyleHaul, ProSieben/CDS). And now this.
Obviously, Verizon liked the AwesomenessTV recipe, as did Hearst before it and as does Comcast-NBCUniversal now. DreamWorks—including the AwesomenessTV digital-first asset—represents a true multiplatform play (movies, TV, theme parks, merchandise . . . and digital).