Listen: AwesomenessTV ‘Bargain of a Lifetime,’ Says Viacom Digital Chief

Kelly Day Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Sep 2018
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutter

When Viacom acquired AwesomenessTV in July for what sources pegged at just over $50 million, more than a few eyebrows were raised considering the company had a $650 million valuation just a few years ago.

But in the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Viacom Digital Studios president Kelly Day characterized the pact as a steal of a deal.

“I will say that I think we’re going to wake up a year from now and find that we got the bargain of a lifetime,” said Day, who came to Viacom from AwesomenessTV last November. “I think the company is fundamentally worth more than the situation that was in front of them.”

Day is bullish on her former employer because the company both established a brand for itself with a young audience via social media and built a TV and film production division that generated hits like Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” The decline in AwesomenessTV’s value, she believes is more attributable to a lack of consensus among its previous owners: Hearst, Comcast and Verizon, which was AwesomenessTV’s primary client through its now-shuttered Go90 business.

“Unfortunately, you had kind of a complicated ownership structure that was not easily able to resolve itself between the three owners,” she said. “I think maybe a little lack of cohesion about what the vision and strategy for the company should have been going forward. Obviously with Verizon essentially exiting the media business, you can say that was the impetus to put the wheels in motion to say, ‘Hey, maybe we should do something else with that asset.'”

AwesomenessTV made sense for Viacom because the brand’s resonance with teenage girls gave it a demographic sweet spot that will tuck it in nicely between Viacom’s portfolio of other young-skewing brands alongside MTV and Nickelodeon. While Viacom has since laid off 98 AwesomenessTV employees due to what Day described as duplication in back-office function, she’s excited to reinvigorate the brand. Another AwesomenessTV alum, Paramount Players chief Brian Robbins, is already working on a new slate of films to fit the brand’s needs.

Also in this episode of “Strictly Business,” Day discussed the strategic rationale behind other Viacom digital-minded acquisitions including WhoSay and Vidcon, which she indicated could see an expansion beyond annual events to a brand active all year long.  In addition, she walked through Viacom’s efforts to attract young eyeballs to original content across digital platforms.

“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring comedian/actor/producer Kevin Hart, ICM Partners agent Esther Newberg, and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.