5 Reasons Katzenberg Should Take AwesomenessTV or Go Out on His Own After the Acquisition
1. Entrepreneurial spirit.
Knowing his beloved DreamWorks Animation is in good hands at NBCUniversal, will Katzenberg take a nod from Barry Diller and go feet first into the digital domain? “He has a world of opportunity available to him,” said Peter Csathy, chief executive of Mannatt Media. “When you’ve done what he’s done, what’s going to be interesting?” Some experts speculate that the veteran executive could buy AwesomenessTV in full and build it into something much bigger on his own.
2. Reprise at Disney?
Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger needs a new successor after former heir-apparent Thomas Staggs leaves this summer. Could now be the time for Katzenberg to return to the family-friendly media giant? Reportedly, he has told friends that will not happen, but Disney’s $400 million investment in Vice Media and $500 million acquisition of Maker Studios means the studio is serious about digital, and will need a savvy new leader to take over after Iger.
3. Youth culture.
Building out AwesomenessTV to compete with the likes of Hulu or Amazon would take knowledge of what the next generation of media consumers wants to see, and where they’ll want to watch it. Katzenberg, who has invested in game maker Zynga, was instrumental in working out deals with Netflix and AwesomenessTV at DreamWorks. “He deeply understands the power of digital,” said Csathy.
4. Cash money.
Katzenberg stands to net more than $400 million as a result of the Comcast acquisition. Could that mean the beginning of a new Katzenberg Films studio? “He’ll likely stay for six months,” said Corey Barrett, a Comcast analyst at ITG in New York. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Katzenberg’s interest in mobile video and his experience with live-action films at Disney would make him a compelling studio head as Hollywood adjusts to the digital revolution and collapse of the DVD market.
After a frightening car accident in his Tesla in the fall, some insiders have speculated the 65-year-old industry veteran might be looking to slow down and have more free time to be a philanthropist and grandfather. The past two years were rough for the studio, suffering losses of more than $300 million in 2014 and nearly $54 million last year. Katzenberg, known for his interests in supporting education and the arts, was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars in 2013 for his contributions.
5 Reasons Katzenberg + AwesomenessTV Should Stay With NBCUniversal After the Acquisition Closes
1. Keep DreamWorks “Awesome.”
“AwesomenessTV has performed pretty well as part of DreamWorks Animation,” said Jan Dawson, a chief technology analyst at Jackdaw Research in Highland, Utah. “It’s highly profitable, and it’s been growing really fast, too, so it’s likely that Comcast would want to continue to invest in it and assets like it.” Katzenberg has always been a strong believer in the Hollywood-based digital video firm he acquired in 2013. It’s valued at a reported $690 million, and saw a 41 percent increase in revenue in the final quarter of last year to nearly $33 million.
2. He’ll be running the (AwesomenessTV) show.
DreamWorks suffered from the vagaries of being a publicly held independent studio in an increasingly consolidated media world. Embracing the conglomerate bounty offered by a giant media company such as Comcast could provide the stability Katzenberg has always dreamed of for his legacy and for emerging media properties such as AwesomenessTV.
3. For the children.
Netflix is the global home for DreamWorks Animations’ films and forthcoming TV content, and children’s media is the most valuable asset the streamer has. Katzenberg strengthened the DreamWorks-Netflix bond in January with an expanded partnership that would launch several new original series, including Guillermo del Toro’s “Trollhunters” and a reboot of the 1980s animated series “Voltron.” Katzenberg was already positioning to take DreamWorks into diverse distribution opportunities online, and being part of Comcast would help.
4. Possible Spielberg (cross-)pollination.
Katzenberg, who started his career at Paramount Pictures under Diller, is unlikely to walk away from the magic of the movies completely. He just spoke about the theatergoing experience at CinemaCon last month, saying, “In a movie theater, life’s distractions are sealed off outside those four walls.” With Spielberg’s studio Amblin Partners also back at Universal, is it possible a reunion could take place?
5. He can finally stick it to Disney.
Katzenberg left Disney in 1994 after more than a decade helping the entertainment empire become a leader at the box office again and supporting the animation department’s creation of some of its most critically acclaimed, highest-grossing animated features such as “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Passed over for the role of president by then-Chairman Michael Eisner, Katzenberg left to co-found DreamWorks SKG with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg later that year. With the backing of Comcast, he could now be part of an animation powerhouse that would compete with Disney’s Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios units.
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