The deal ratifies talks that Deadline had previously reported, and dramatically increases the value of DWA’s investment in the online site it bought before the current gold rush of media companies buying into online-video companies.
The deal also will provide an influential new partner for Awesomeness as it expands beyond the YouTube world into other media platforms. Hearst owns or has a stake in cable networks Lifetime, A&E, History and ESPN, as well as hundreds of magazines and newspapers such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and the San Francisco Chronicle. The companies will work together to further grow Awesomeness at a time when the YouTube MCN business model is about to mutate into a much broader media play.
“Few companies have built the global audience of millennial females as quickly as AwesomenessTV,” said Hearst CEO and President Steven R. Swartz. “For us, it’s very important to make a bet on the future of how content is created. Together, in partnership with DreamWorks, we see great opportunity in supporting the consumer media franchise that AwesomenessTV continues to build.”
“This is an extremely exciting partnership for AwesomenessTV and DreamWorks as we continue to implement our long-term strategy to maximize the value of our content and properties through multiple distribution platforms,” said DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We’re delighted with the opportunity to partner with Hearst, in part because it has outstanding global brands, a very valuable international presence, and industry-leading technology, and also because of its demonstrated track record of successfully partnering with media companies and supporting their growth trajectories.”
DWA was one of the first big media companies to buy an MCN, back in May 2013, when it put up $33 million to buy the company founded and headed by CEO Brian Robbins, who with President Brett Bouttier will stay on after the latest deal. But the $33 million purchase price has looked increasingly like a very good deal for DWA as Awesomeness has continued to grow, acquiring talent-management company Big Frame and seeing audiences boom for some of its best-known creators.
Meanwhile, most of the studios in Hollywood have bought at least a share of other big MCNs, often for much higher prices, most notably when Disney agreed to pay $500 million last March for Maker Studios, with another $450 million in potential earnout for the online giant.
Awesomeness now claims nearly 800 million monthly views and a subscriber base of 114 million, watching videos from stars such as Cimorelli, Tyler Oakley and Cameron Dallas. DWA has also pushed the company into new cross-media ventures, including animation programming, consumer products, music and print operations. Selling a quarter of the company for 2.5 times what DreamWorks paid for the entire operation looks like one of the best deals in some time for the struggling animation studio.