DreamWorks/Paramount Deal: As Much About Nickelodeon and Shrek As About Live-Action Films

Viacom's acquisition of DreamsWorks SKG's live-action unit has its own film-distribution TV motives, but the more crucial part of the deal is what DreamWorks animated product will do for the Viacom cable TV network-brand, Nickelodeon.

Part of the deal assures that at least one DreamWorks-produced animated series will land at Paramount sister company Nickelodeon every two years. Additionally, it will assure DreamWorks properties and characters such as Madagascar and Shrek will have a long TV life in terms of series and licensing revenue. For DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg--who has a fondness for and expertise in animated properties--all this is keenly important.

This part of the deal is interesting because DreamsWorks' animated properties are seemingly tangential to the main live-action film part of the deal (which may include some 59 library titles, and which would have extra TV value for Viacom's cable networks.).



Viacom doesn't get ownership of those animated films--just film distribution rights. The animated piece of DreamWorks--spun off as a separate public company last year--was not part of the Viacom/DreamWorks deal. That makes sense: DreamWorks's animated films have been major successes versus that of its spotty reputation when it comes to live-action theatrical releases. (Then again, DreamWorks' made-for-TV animation doesn't always cut the grade. Think of the adult-skewing "Father of the Pride" for NBC prime time.)

While any independent studio or filmmaker or content provider will tell you content is king, distribution is still the nagging queen that makes the household run.

That's why Sony Pictures Entertainment has had a lukewarm involvement with network TV production over the last several years. Sony lacks strong broad-based broadcast or cable networks to carry its content. It doesn't own TV stations like Viacom, NBC Universal, Fox, the WB, or ABC that are still major profit generators. DreamWorks was also in that camp.

NBC Universal may have been the natural outlet for DreamWorks--what with DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg's long history at Universal--but considering Viacom's other cable connections, DreamWorks is far better off.

NBC Universal doesn't have a strong kids' cable network. In fact, it doesn't have any kids' network.

Viacom does.

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