Viacom to Acquire Awesomeness for $25 Million

Bob Bakish

The deal, which sources say also includes the assumption of some debt, is significantly lower than the $650 million valuation that Awesomeness had in 2016.

Viacom is making it official with Awesomeness. 

The media conglomerate has announced that it plans to acquire the youth media company from its consortium of owners, NBCUniversal, Verizon and Hearst. The company did not disclose term of the deal, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the price tag for Awesomeness is around $25 million plus some debt.

As part of the deal, CEO Jordan Levin will leave the company following a post-acquisition transition period.

The sale brings to an end a complex ownership structure for Awesomeness, which is majority owned by Comcast's NBCU (via its acquisition of DreamWorks Animation in 2016) but also counts Verizon and Hearst as large shareholders. It comes during a period of belt tightening for digital media businesses several years after the sector saw a flurry of M&A activity that led to Disney's acquisition of Maker Studios and Otter Media's majority ownership of Fullscreen.

For Viacom, it will add to a growing roster of digital brands. The company, under the leadership of Bob Bakish, tapped Awesomeness veteran Kelly Day late last year to run its newly established Viacom Digital Studios group. Since then, the company has acquired marketing company WhoSay and youth conference business VidCon.

“Awesomeness has done an incredible job building their brand into a digital media powerhouse for today’s most sought-after and hard-to-reach youth audiences,” said Kelly Day, President of Viacom Digital Studios and former Chief Business Officer of Awesomeness. “The team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, a world-class television and film studio, and a robust branded content team and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios.”

The deal will also reunite several former Awesomeness executives with the company. Co-founder and CEO Brian Robbins left Awesomeness last year and took a role running film studio Paramount Players, a division of Viacom's Paramount Pictures. Matt Kaplan, who ran Awesomeness Films, soon followed Robbins out the door to launch his own production company that has a first-look film deal with Paramount Players. Day, meanwhile, tapped former Awesomeness colleague Paula Kaplan to run talent and development for Viacom Digital Studios.

Robbins initially launched Awesomeness as the AwesomenessTV-funded YouTube channel and eventually built out a teen- and tween-focused media company that produced original programming for digital and traditional distribution. The company sold to DWA in 2013 for as much as $117 million. Later, Hearst and Verizon also acquired minority stakes in the business. The Verizon deal, for 24.5 percent of Awesomeness, valued the company at $650 million.

When DWA sold to NBCUniversal in 2016, Awesomeness became part of the Comcast family, resulting in a complex structure in which competitors Verizon and Comcast both had positions in the business. 

Awesomeness, which currently boasts a reach of 158 million subscribers across its platforms, will help to boost Viacom's digital business and provide opportunities to align with youth-centric brand Nickelodeon and MTV. The company will be fully integrated into Viacom Digital Studios.