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CANNES – DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg offered the Breaking Bad creators $25 million an episode for three more episodes of the show. His only stipulation was that the additional hourlong episodes be delivered in six-minute installments so they could be watched online via subscription.
His scheme, he told an audience gathered here for Wednesday’s MIPCOM keynote, was to create “the greatest pay-per-view (event) in scripted television ever.”
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Of course, the $75 million offer for 180 additional minutes of the Vince Gilligan drama was a nonstarter given the way the series ended.
But Katzenberg, who like millions of viewers arrived at the series late into its run on AMC, relayed the story to illustrate the point that distributors will continue to pay a premium for high-quality content, whether it lives on linear TV or online.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that millions of people would have downloaded those episodes.”
It is a point the DreamWorks Animation chief recently demonstrated by plunking down $33 million for Brian Robbins‘ YouTube channel AwesomenessTV, which currently has 909,000 subscribers and 176 million views and already has spawned a successful Nickelodeon series of the same name culled from the YouTube content. And AwesomenessTV now also serves as a multichannel network (MCN) with 73,000 channels, 20 million subscribers and more than 1 billion page views.
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The deal, said Katzenberg, is an “enormous opportunity.” And along with DWA’s five-year deal to create 300 hours of original kid-targeted content for Netflix, “it gets us directly in touch with the teen audience in a way that movies and TV can’t.”
That’s because not only are younger consumers watching more content online, but they are also far more engaged with content viewed on touch-screen devices than they are with linear TV.
But Katzenberg noted that movies remain the “heart and soul” of the DreamWorks Animation brand, with an average box-office gross of more than $500 million. But DWA will increasingly seek out opportunistic partnerships and thus “look like a very different company” 15 years on, Katzenberg said.
Citing historian Daniel J. Boorstin‘s “Displacive Fallacy,” which disputed the notion that new technologies replace old, Katzenberg noted that TV is “still great for our brand.” However, “with the proliferation of distribution properties, there will inevitably be more demand for media.”
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And while funny cat videos and Carrie-inspired pranks will always have a place in the digital ecosystem, the industry will continually shift to high-quality, longform storytelling such as Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.
This is what Katzenberg called the “Parfait Paradigm,” as a picture of a chocolate parfait being eyed by a hungry donkey from DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek flashed on the giant screen behind him.
“Each new medium gives us qualities that are complementary to the media already in place,” he said. “Just like a parfait” the experience becomes “richer and more satisfying.”
Katzenberg characterized the web as “a great incubator of talent and concepts” with the “ability to drive viewers” to linear TV, as it did with Nick’s AwesomenessTV.
“Whether the media is old or the media is new,” concluded Katzenebrg, “content continues to drive success.”
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