NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast, announced today that it is acquiring DreamWorks Animation in a deal worth $3.8 billion.
The studio will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, NBCUniversal Brand Development and Fandango, the latter of which purchased VOD service M-GO from DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor in January.
DreamWorks Animation has been on the sales block for more than a year and a half. In September 2014, Tokyo-based telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp. was reported to be on the brink of acquiring the company for $3.4 billion, but the deal fell through. The following November, toy company Hasbro was in talks to acquire the studio for $2.3 billion, but that deal also failed to materialize.
NBCUniversal’s acquisition is significant in the streaming space because DreamWorks Animation has a controlling interest in AwesomenessTV, the digital-influencer-focused multi-platform production company headed by founder and CEO Brian Robbins and president Brett Bouttier.
In addition to its core TV business — which supplies content to YouTube, as well as Netflix (“Richie Rich,” “Project MC²”) and Nickelodeon — AwesomenessTV also has divisions covering features (Awesomeness Films), music (Awesomeness Music), publishing (Awesomeness Ink), artist management (Big Frame) and consumer products.
Earlier this month, telecommunications giant Verizon entered into an agreement to buy an approximate 24.5% stake in AwesomnessTV for $159 million. Per the terms of the deal, DreamWorks Animation, which acquired AwesomenessTV in May 2013 for $33 million, keeps a controlling stake in the company, while Hearst will retain the 24.5% it acquired for $81 million in Dec. 2014.
Under the terms of the NBCUniversal deal, DreamWorks Animation stockholders will receive $41 in cash for each share of DreamWorks Animation common stock. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2016, subject to antitrust approvals in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Following the completion of the transaction, DreamWorks Animation CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will become chairman of DreamWorks New Media, which will be comprised of the company’s ownership interests in AwesomenessTV and the visualization platform NOVA. Last summer, NBCUniversal made a pair of big digital media bets, investing $200 million in Vox Media and $250 million in BuzzFeed, but those companies are not listed as being within Katzenberg’s purview, although he will serve as a general consultant to NBCUniversal.
That means that Katzenberg will be leaving behind animated features, which he helped revive during his tenure at Disney (1984–1994), and struggled to stay competitive with at DreamWorks Animation (which was spun off from DreamWorks in 2004), in spite of notable successes including the “Shrek” franchise.
“Having spent the past two decades working together with our team to build DreamWorks Animation into one of the world’s most beloved brands, I am proud to say that NBCUniversal is the perfect home for our company; a home that will embrace the legacy of our storytelling and grow our businesses to their fullest potential,” said Katzenberg in a statement. “This agreement not only delivers significant value for our shareholders, but also supports NBCUniversal’s growing family entertainment business. As for my role, I am incredibly excited to continue exploring the potential of AwesomenessTV, NOVA and other new media opportunities, and can’t wait to get started.”