Los Angeles Business Journal

Purchase of Network a Boost for Platform

By Tom Dotan Monday, May 27, 2013

“Any content they wanted to watch was on the computer,” Robbins remembered. “It was a very bizarre phenomenon, really watching this happen for the first time.”

Robbins built his career with projects aimed at a younger audience, such as TV’s “Smallville” and “One Tree Hill,” and movies such as “Good Burger.”

He incubated the new company within his talent agency, Century City’s United Talent Agency, and was among the first recipients of funding through YouTube’s $100 million creator program, getting $5 million.

The channel developed several series for the Nickelodeon crowd but with a distinct online bent. Its programming slate includes talk show “IMO,” billed as “The View” for teen girls, and makeover series “MissGlamorazzi.”

Awesomeness publicly launched in June 2012 and later brought in $3.5 million in venture capital funding, led by Santa Monica’s MK Capital.

In an era where youth-oriented cable channels such as Nickelodeon have been struggling to retain viewers, Awesomeness has managed to build up a considerable audience while producing its shows for a fraction of TV’s cost. At present, the channel has more than 500,000 nonpaying subscribers and its network has accumulated 800 million views.

Several media companies had been circling Awesomeness almost since its launch; Robbins said the company “was literally getting several calls a week” about investments or acquisitions. However, the deal with DreamWorks, spearheaded by studio Chief Executive Jeffery Katzenberg, came together within the span of a month. Katzenberg reached out through Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content, who left Robbins a fateful message.

“Kyncl called me and he said, ‘Hey, I want to introduce you to Katzenberg, but beware, your life is going to change,’” Robbins said.

The two had the outline of a deal planned by the end of the week.

By joining the DreamWorks brand, Awesomeness gets access to the studios’ library of properties, including franchises “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” In turn, DreamWorks is able to use the outlet to promote these and other animated films to a demographic sweet spot.

There’s also a chance Awesomeness could be incorporated into the long-gestating plan of launching a DreamWorks Animation cable channel. Though executives of both companies have publicly downplayed that connection, analyst Wible said it likely figured heavily into the decision.

A cable channel and a YouTube platform are both, at their cores, distribution platforms that deliver the studio’s properties in new ways.

“Having Awesomeness makes it easier to transition into TV,” Wible said. “It may be a good intermediate step to modernize its brands in a new platform.”

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