So now we know. After getting roasted by some competing studio heads (if not on Wall Street) earlier this year when he said movies are “not a growth business,” DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg traveled south to Anaheim today to talk about online video, a business he does see growing into the next big entertainment business platform. Katzenberg sat down onstage with Hank Green, himself a prominent video blogger with brother John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars. The brothers are co-founders of Vidcon, the massive industry confab and fan festival filling the Anaheim Convention Center the next three days. Katzenberg used the friendly audience of video creators, distributors and others in the business to talk about why online video, particularly on YouTube, is such a promising creation and distribution platform for a new generation of talent outside traditional Hollywood.
“I think the opportunities ahead are so immense,” Katzenberg said. “This platform is in its infancy. Monetizing that is still a struggle. What we will see in a very short period of time, that will all start to migrate up to the top of the pyramid. I believe in five years, 95 percent of the value will come from the top 5 percent” of video creators.
And DWA already has invested substantially in the space, buying multi-channel network AweseomenessTV a year ago and launching the daily video digest YouTube Nation about four months ago. Last week, the company officially announced the programming slate for DreamworksTV, another YouTube channel under Awesomeness that will feature short animations involving notable DWA characters such as Shrek and Po the Panda, along with planned animated series featuring characters from its Classic Media library acquisition.
Katzenberg was particularly upbeat about YouTube Nation, which highlights notable videos and up-and-comers in a 5- to 6-minute daily roundup. “We have created a lighthouse that is in service of everything that is great and unique and singular about what I believe will be the most important platform in the world, which is YouTube,” Katzenberg said. The channel already has accreted 1.6 million subscribers and 25 million views, and ultimately, the company hopes to extend YouTube Nation into specialized shows focused on verticals such as sports and beauty. The idea for the program came from Katzenberg’s own fascination, and frustration, with the vast YouTube sea of content, he said.
“Being someone who’s just a fan of the platform, the content, the creators, I loved it, and at the same time, I was incredibly frustrated by my ability to consume it,” Katzenberg said. “It just overwhelmed me. It was an ocean of opportunity I kept feeling I was missing. It pissed me off that I would find out on, like the Today show, something I should be watching.”
He also touted the opportunities for AwesomenessTV (“Our biggest and most exciting bet”), which has a show on Nickelodeon among other ventures and whose YouTube channels Katzenberg said now have 50 million subscribers and 1 billion views a month.
“They are at the foundation of making careers,” Katzenberg said of the team running Awesomeness. “They’ve become this great host where great talent can find audiences. This is all about value creation. If you’re looking for a place now to go and connect with that audience, it’s hard to find a better place to make that launch.”
With 18,000 fans and online-video industry types attending Vidcon, the scene is strongly reminiscent of the San Diego Comic-Con without the cosplay at a time, say 10 years ago, when Hollywood was just beginning to embrace the franchise-marketing possibilities there. Vidcon this year includes sponsors such as Kia Motors, Friskies, NBC, UTA, Best Buy, Samsung, HLN, Taco Bell and other big media and consumer brands. Today is Industry Day, with a series of presentations by prominent video creators and even old-school veterans such as MTV and Nickelodeon pioneer Fred Seibert, now 62 and once again exploring a new medium with his Frederator Studios.