So now we know. After getting roasted by some competing studio heads (if not on Wall Street) earlier this year when he said movies are “not a growth business,” DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg traveled south to Anaheim today to talk about online video, a business he does see growing into the next big entertainment business platform. Katzenberg sat down onstage with Hank Green, himself a prominent video blogger with brother John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars. The brothers are co-founders of Vidcon, the massive industry confab and fan festival filling the Anaheim Convention Center the next three days. Katzenberg used the friendly audience of video creators, distributors and others in the business to talk about why online video, particularly on YouTube, is such a promising creation and distribution platform for a new generation of talent outside traditional Hollywood.
“I think the opportunities ahead are so immense,” Katzenberg said. “This platform is in its infancy. Monetizing that is still a struggle. What we will see in a very short period of time, that will all start to migrate up to the top of the pyramid. I believe in five years, 95 percent of the value will come from the top 5 percent” of video creators. Read More »
In a sign of the rapidly maturing online-video business, Fullscreen’s expanding talent-management unit has reached outside its own YouTube multi-channel network to sign JennXPenn, whose popular comedy and music-video Top 10 shorts run on a competing MCN, DreamWorks Animation‘s AwesomenessTV. She will be repped by Fullscreen’s Andrew Graham and Rana Zand, two of the eight managers under former CAA executive Larry Shapiro, now Fullscreen’s SVP and head of talent.
JennX, whose real name is Jenn McAllister, is nearly 18 and finishing up both her high school studies (online, of course) and a national concert tour with musician Tyler Ward. Reached in Nashville on the tour’s final stop, the Los Angeles-based McAllister said her decision to hire a management team was spurred by her increasingly frenetic array of career opportunities and time demands. Along with banking a series of video shorts ahead of the tour, in the past several weeks she joined Ward on 16 tour stops and took part in two massive social-media fan festivals in New York and Toronto organized by Digitour Media, whose investors include Ryan Seacrest and Advance Publications. McAllister said she hopes to explore more acting and hosting opportunities in coming months with help from her new management team. “It’s been difficult to balance everything I’ve been working on,” McAllister said. “I was talking to a lot of management (agencies). But I heard a lot of good things about Fullscreen. I have a lot of friends … Read More »
The Producers Guild of America handed out its Digital Visionaries awards Friday night, recognizing nine notable organizations and the people behind them for using technology to advance the ways stories are told. “These are the top Hollywood people who are ultra-forward thinking in their vision of telling stories,” said Marc Scarpa, co-chair with Shawn Gold of the committee selecting the award winners. “We’re about pushing the medium forward.” Producer/Writer/Director Marshall Herskovitz (ThirtySomething, The Last Samurai and a prominent PGA member) handed out the night’s awards with short comments about each:
- The people behind the elaborate, and endlessly charming, confabulation that turned the city of San Francisco into a giant superhero playground for one ailing child dressed as “BatKid.” This award went to Patricia Wilson, Executive Director of Make-A-Wish Foundation, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and the city’s residents.
- Netflix, for its swath of original programming. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said the company’s event Thursday evening featuring notable women actor/directors who are part of its shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as the Oscar-nominated documentary The Square, “show you where we’re going, particularly for the directors on that stage (Jodie Foster, Robin Wright, Jehane Noujaim). We get to really broaden the spectrum (of programming options and voices).” As for innovation on the technical side,
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We should have seen this coming. AwesomenessTV’s comedy videos make it a big deal for teens and kids in the YouTube world, and it has a series on Nickelodeon. That makes it a natural to get into the licensed merchandise business. The DreamWorks Animation owned operation says this morning that it hired former Claire’s Stores CEO and former Disney Stores Worldwide president James Fielding to be AwesomenessTV’s Global Head of Consumer Products and Retail. “AwesomenessTV has built an amazing brand in a very short time, engaging teens around the world,” he says. “This is an incredible opportunity. I look forward to building a long-term business strategy around consumer products and retail experiences that speaks to our fans in new and innovative ways.” He has a lot of running room: AwesomenessTV still isn’t a big moneymaker for DWA. The online video operation contributed just $2.4M in profit and $11.4M in revenue to the studio last year after it committed $33M — with potentially $117M more if it meets performance targets — in May to acquire it. DWA still believes in online video: Last week it agreed to pay $15M for Big Frame, another online multi-channel network operation.
Eleven months after being scooped up by DreamWorks Animation, the YouTube multi-channel network has made an acquisition of its own. Teen/tween-targeted AwesomenessTV said today it paid $15 million for Big Frame, which boasts 300-plus YouTube channels and nearly 40 million subscribers. The deal — which is subject to conditions but expected to close this month — brings such familiar online personalities as Jimmy Tatro, Tyler Oakley, DeStorm and MysteryGuitarMan to the next-gen media company led by founder and CEO Brian Robbins. Steve Raymond and Sarah Penna launched Big Frame in 2011, and it raised more than $3 million in seed capital the following year.
Related: AwesomenessTV Introduces YouTube Channel Targeting Young Males
Up to now the studio licensed books based on its characters to different publishers with Simon & Schuster serving as the master licensee. But now it’s taking charge with DreamWorks Press, described as “an in-house operation which will publish digital and print books inspired by the studio’s vast [intellectual property] library.” The unit’s works will be sold and distributed by The Perseus Books Group and will “give fans a meaningful way to interact with us on a year-round basis,” DreamWorks Animation‘s Head of Franchise Shawn Dennis says. The first DreamWorks Press books will be ready by this year’s holiday shopping season. Franchises initially targeted for digital and print books and book apps include Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, Shrek, and 2015′s B.O.O.: Bureau Of Otherworldly Operations along with properties from DreamWorks Classics — the Classic Media library bought in 2012 and that includes Little Golden Books — and AwesomenessTV. DWA says that it will “build an international team within the publishing arm to ensure that content is produced and enjoyed around the world.” Publishing vet Emma Whittard will run DreamWorks Press. “With all of the proper pieces now in place, we are perfectly positioned to grow the publishing business in a significant way for years to come,” she says.
Controversy over a comedy short helped Russell Simmons launch his new YouTube channel All Def Digital yesterday. But a firestorm of complaints over Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, in which the abolitionist has sex with her master in order to blackmail him into creating the Underground Railroad, led Simmons to pull the video today and issue an apology. “In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian,” said Simmons in a statement. “When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.”
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” he continues. “My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.” Read More »
The channel’s called AwesomenessX and it will offer “original sports, gaming, comedy, pranks and lifestyle content” for males in their teens and 20s, says the company that’s owned by DreamWorks Animation. As the Web destination grows it can “segment our audience so we can better target the programming and build communities around specific interest areas,” says its CEO Brian Robbins. The new channel will pick up some series from AwesomenessTV including The City – Basketball, Sk8 Spotterz, Blow Up Guys, That Was Awesome and How To Be Awesome. It will also launch new series including one that follows Winter X-Games gold medalist David Wise. Another will track “the first Chinese skaters and their friends as they begin to open the minds of the Chinese people to a sport that has always been looked down upon.” Other shows will offer videos of the best game moves and photo shoots of swimsuit models. There’s also The Frank Dog (a dog that “breaks down the latest viral video, with a special dark place just for those adorable cat clips”), Baby Gaga (a talking baby that “will break down his favorite baby videos from around the web and also give his hilarious opinion on what is really going on”) and Fingerlings (where finger puppets poke fun at “current pop culture moments”).
This is the deal that DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg appears to have been alluding to last night when he said he had video-related “news to share pretty quickly.” He says this AM that the YouTube destination is “one of the fastest-growing content channels on the Internet today and our acquisition of this groundbreaking venture will bring incredible momentum to our digital strategy.” AwesomenessTV has TV and film aspirations which indicates it has “continued cross-platform expansion plans,” the companies say. The deal, which includes contingencies, should provide a nice payoff for founder and CEO Brian Robbins as well as UTA and Ziffren Brittenham — all of whom supported (the trendy term is “incubate”) the young service. Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says DWA’s acquisition is “strategically prudent” given the growth in Internet video viewing even though it will “likely be dilutive [to earnings] in the near term.” DreamWorks shares are up 6.6% in mid-morning trading. Here’s the release: Read More »
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
UPDATED: Just in time for the debauchery of Spring Break that has long provided fodder for Hollywood, distribution newcomer A24 Films scored big time with this weekend’s three-theater opening of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. The Venice/Toronto debut headlining James Franco and Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens grossed a whopping $270K for a $90K average. That’s the best opening per-theater-average in the specialty arena for 2013. A24 also fared well with their other rollout, Ginger & Rosa, which had the third-highest per theater average of the current weekend with $15K. Both titles should prove strong box office contenders in the weeks to come. GKids released Studio Ghibli’s From Up On Poppy Hill, which averaged an impressive weekend second-best $27,514 in a pair of theaters. The animated film was directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of master Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who was co-writer on the movie. YouTube channel AwesomenessTV partnered with AMC Entertainment to open the teen R&B concert pic Mindless Behavior: All Around The World in 117 theaters, grossing over a half-million dollars with a solid $4,351 average. Oscilloscope bowed Matteo Garrone’s Reality in one theater, grossing $8K, while Millennium took Upside Down to 11 locations, averaging $2,570. Read More »