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”).
Listen to (and share) Episode 33 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media, as Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at earnings-season results for most of the Big Media companies; a worrisome prediction for summer box office bombs just as the summer movie season kicks off; the FCC’s new chairman; and DreamWorks Animation’s new tech acquisition.
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:
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tribeca & Doha End Partnership; ITV Studios Global; Unifrance; DreamWorks Animation In Macau
Tribeca And Doha Film Fest End Partnership
After four years of collaboration, the Doha Film Institute and Tribeca Enterprises have announced the dissolution of their partnership on the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. Doha Film Institute CEO Abdulaziz Al-Khater says the Qatar-based festival will continue in a “new niche” with future plans to be laid out during Cannes next month. I’m told the separation was amicable after Tribeca helped launch the festival. Last year, DTFF showcased Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist which was made with the backing of the DFI. In Berlin earlier this year, Participant Media partnered with the DFI to form a $100M revolving fund to finance a slate of feature films.
Fraser Robinson Joins ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Former NBC Universal International Channels exec Fraser Robinson has joined ITV Studios Global Entertainment as VP scripted acquisitions & co-productions. He will be charged with growing the drama slate and co-production portfolio of the commercial arm of UK broadcaster ITV. He was previously director of scripted development for NBCU’s international channels group in London with responsibility for developing and managing co-produced content across over 50 platforms worldwide and oversaw series including Haven, Fairly Legal, Rookie Blue and Shattered.
One reason for the increase is that the DreamWorks Animation CEO collected $365,386 in salary, up from his traditional $1 — an amount that many tech entrepreneurs take to illustrate that they want to help their new companies conserve cash while they make most of their wealth from the large amount of stock that they own in their companies. (Katzenberg controls 61% of the voting shares.) The new contract Katzenberg signed in October will guarantee him a $2.5M annual salary and a bonus of as much as $4M, according to the proxy filed today at the SEC. The board says the change recognizes that it’s no longer a young company — it went public in 2004 — and “determined that Mr. Katzenberg should receive a more traditional overall compensation package.” The DWA chief still did well in the stock department last year, collecting $4.5M, up from $4M in 2011, along with other compensation of $375,331 The “other” benefits largely went to security services for the CEO which the company says it doesn’t consider to be compensation but includes “in accordance with SEC guidance on this issue.” Katzenberg’s compensation was 1.8 times higher than the median for his company’s other top executives, well below the level (3 times) that corporate governance watchdogs consider to be out of whack.
Glendale, CA – April 11, 2013 – DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) has acquired the IP for the iconic Troll franchise from the Dam Family and Dam Things of Denmark with plans to introduce the beloved brand to a new generation of fans around the world. In support of the brand’s enormous global potential, DreamWorks Animation has named American Girl veteran Shawn Dennis as head of brand development to cultivate this classic franchise.
The film’s performance is a big deal for DreamWorks Animation investors following the $87M writedown the company took for its Christmas release Rise Of The Guardians. But Cowen and Co’s Doug Creutz this morning joins the growing ranks of company followers who say that they’re pleasantly surprised by the performance of The Croods, the comedy about a pre-historic family on a road trip. The analyst raised his international box office estimate nearly 44% to $308M. What’s more, he lifted his forecasts for the studio’s future films noting that DWA’s first release distributed by Fox provides “increased confidence” that the partnership “will meaningfully improve overseas performance.” Although Creutz continues flash a yellow light “neutral” for DreamWorks Animation as an investment, he lifted his earnings per share estimate for this year about 49% to 58 cents adding that his “bias on the stock is now leaning to the positive side.” The second-weekend performance of The Croods did a lot to reassure analysts. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible raised his domestic box office estimate to $152M from $116M. Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker said that the weekend’s “low decay of 39.3%” from the opening weekend puts it “on track to beat our prior 6-week est. of $115.0M.”
It’s hard to recall the last time a studio had so much riding on the performance of a single film. Following the $87M writedown for Rise Of The Guardians, and other setbacks, DreamWorks Animation is “a very hated stock on Wall Street,” Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says. Short-sellers control about 24% of the outstanding shares. Just one analyst rates it a strong buy while five rate it “hold” and five classify it as either “sell” or “underperform.” Investors question whether the company can thrive as the market for family fare becomes more competitive. Since DWA only releases about two films a year, there are few opportunities to shape the company’s story. That leads us to The Croods: The consensus among analysts is that the film will generate a little north of $40M at domestic box offices this weekend, ultimately leading to a gross of $160M domestically and $290M abroad. “If they do below $40M, then people will be disappointed,” Wible says. “And north of $50M will be really good for these guys.” The Street’s cautiously optimistic. DWA shares are up 9.8% over the last month. Here’s a sampling of analysts’ estimates and commentary while they wait for the results:
Listen to (and share) Episode 27 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman as our Executive Editor and host David Bloom look at Crood attempts to revive the sagging shares of DreamWorks Animation; brightening numbers for two of the biggest exhibition chains; and what it might mean for Los Angeles and the entertainment business as a whole now that live-entertainment and sports giant AEG is off the market, and its long-time CEO has departed.
The stock rose 8.4% today after Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil upgraded his recommendation to “hold” – mostly due to his view that The Croods will generate solid box office sales after its March 21 opening. His tracking suggests that domestic ticket buyers will spend $50M on the DreamWorks Animation film in its opening weekend, which could propel it to total theatrical sales of $150M. That’s a little below Wall Street’s expectation for $160M. But investors may be pleasantly surprised by international sales. Croods will be “the first new film under the Fox distribution deal,” he says, and the News Corp-owned studio is especially strong overseas. Mogil forecasts $300M in international box office sales. If he’s right then investors’ fear that DreamWorks Animation will be hit with a second consecutive disappointment after Rise Of The Guardians will have “largely played itself out.” Indeed, he says that CEO Jeff Katzenberg’s $87M write-down for the Christmas release was “kitchen-sink in depth” which means it could “actually generate some marginal contribution” to the bottom line.
Ahead of next month’s MipTV market in Cannes, Gaumont is rebranding its Alphanim label to become Gaumont Animation. Under its new banner, the children’s entertainment producer and distributor has entered a development and production agreement with DreamWorks Classics …
Studio moguls always feel that they need their tentpole releases to succeed. But they rarely have as much riding on a single film as DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will on March 22 when he releases The Croods. His company’s dreary Q4 financial report yesterday, which included an $87M writedown on its Christmas release Rise Of The Guardians, set the stage. If The Croods is a success, then investor concerns about the company “will fade,” Lazard Capital Markets Barton Crockett says. But a miss “would amp concerns about a creative crisis, and the big cash drain that results when movies misfire.” Good box office sales may not be good enough. Barclays’ Chris Merwin says the company needs “an exceptional performance” — he expects Croods to generate $150M domestically, and $300M overseas. Forecasts like his are important for investors who are wondering whether this is a good time to buy DreamWorks shares — which are down 3.4% so far today, and -26% since November 2 when it hit a 52-week high of $21.99. In Wall Street terms, the company seemed to take a “bath” yesterday with its Q4 report. It took $165M in writedowns, resulting in a far bigger than expected loss.
I can’t remember a time when I’ve heard DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg sound so down on an earnings call — and it’s mostly due to the red ink for Rise Of The Guardians. Even when an analyst congratulated him for the Oscar he just picked up for his charitable work he said that “we have good days and bad days.” This apparently was one of the latter ones. Guardians “was the first movie of ours in 17 in a row that didn’t work,” he told analysts. “And when that happens it makes you rethink everything.….We’ve done a reset and we’ve done it across the board.” It led to the decision to make substantial layoffs – 350 during the year, Deputy CFO Richard Sullivan said — in which “many valuable members of the DreamWorks family will be leaving”, Katzenberg said. But using the trendy corporatespeak, he says this will “right-size the whole enterprise.” DreamWorks Animation will look to new technology to help make movies “faster and cheaper” putting the company on a long-term “successful path going forward….Would these things have happened without the failure of Guardians? I don’t know.”