Comcast currently owns 51% of the young-skewing digital content player (a result of its acquisition of DreamWorks Animation), with Hearst and Verizon owning the rest.
If the deal closes as expected in the coming weeks, it would be a homecoming for the brand. Awesomeness founder Brian Robbins is now an exec at Viacom’s Paramount Pictures and Kelly Day, a former senior exec at Awesomeness, runs digital for Viacom.
Like many digital platforms being squeezed by online advertising behemoths Google and Facebook, Awesomeness has seen its valuation dwindle. Its three corporate owners all have other priorities, opening the door for Viacom to roll up the entire business, satisfying the wish of Awesomeness to have a single owner.
A source familiar with Viacom’s thinking said management views the company as a strong fit with its existing brands like Nickelodeon and MTV and a way to demonstrate bona fides in digital as linear viewing continues to decline.
Verizon was in a more content-centric strategic mode in 2016, but has since shifted toward wireless and new technology such as 5G. Lowell McAdam, who was CEO of Verizon when it bought into Awesomeness in 2016, is set to retire at the end of the month.
Jordan Levin, a media veteran known for stints at the NFL and WB network, took the helm at Awesomeness last year after Robbins moved into his current role as head of Paramount Players. Robbins is not expected to have any day-to-day involvement in Awesomeness if it joins the Viacom fold, sources indicated.