Things seemed much less frenetic when Awesomeness TV was announced as a new participant in this year’s NewFronts. Then, a few weeks ago and again a few days ago, things changed.
First, at the beginning of the month, Verizon acquired a 24.5% stake in Generation Z-aimed Awesomeness from Dreamworks Animation (DWA).
Then, earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal broke the story that NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast, was acquiring DWA and its 51% Awesomeness stake, in a deal worth $3.8 billion.
And all of a sudden, AwesomenessTV was the center of added speculation, making its May 11 NewFronts presentation potentially something of a road map for the future of some other big NewFronts players.
That’s because NBC Universal earlier plunked down major coin for investments in Vox Media and BuzzFeed--each getting a reported infusion of about $200 million. The speculation is that NBC Universal will use both of those platforms, plus AwesomenessTV synergistically.
The other hunch is that DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, too veteran to imagine settling for the new announced role as chairman of DreamWorks New Media, might instead try to buy AwesomenessTV outright, or in tandem with Verizon’s 24.5% stake.
So, a lot is going on.
Brett Bouttier, the president of AwesomenessTV, joined the company co-founded by Brian Robbins in 2012. Within year after it launched, it hit 1 billion YouTube views and within a year after it was started, it was snapped up by DreamWorks for $33 million.
Verizon bought its partial stake in AwesomenessTV for $159 million; Hearst had earlier bought a near-25% stake for $81 million. Good work.
Though AwesomenessTV grew up fast on YouTube: ”I would say a big part of our success is how Awesomeness lives in many places,” Bouttier said earlier this week, and particularly on Facebook.
“The best thing is to share a piece of content with a friend,” Bouttier said. “And Facebook is about sharing, front and center.”
Like other successful digital entities, “right now we are spread around on many social platforms. Our content on Snapchat is obviously the most different” he said, owing to Snapchat’s inherent strangeness.
But its fixation, recently, has been Verizon’s mobile-first Go90 nascent service and success there--Bouttier says internal documents say Awesomeness is one of Go90’s most-visited features--is leading toward AwesomenessTV’s own mobile-centered subscription VOD service to come, possibly next year.
That will be following, for one, Fullscreen’s own service that started this week. Like Fullscreen, AwesomenessTV is aiming at a narrower and younger niche.
Can digital handle many specially-pegged SVODs like that?
Bouttier is betting yes. He says advertisers are getting used to a “more and more disaggregated audience. At the end of the day, they are asking, what is the message? Does that content fit with our brand?” He say AwesomenessTV worked well from the start because it presented premium content even at a time that label didn’t flash as brightly in neon as it does with advertisers now.
How that new project plays out is an answer the AwesomenessTV NewFront might answer, and though this is its first official showing, it has a good history with the IAB-fronted digital showcase.
It was at 2013’s YouTube Brandcast that it was announced, on stage, that Katzenberg was buying AwesomenessTV. And as this week has shown, that seems to have worked out pretty well.