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Viacom Acquires AwesomenessTV; CEO Jordan Levin to Depart

It’s official: Viacom closed a deal to acquire AwesomenessTV, a youth-oriented digital media company, as Viacom looks to expand its reach among digital-first audiences sandwiched in between its Nickelodeon and MTV brands.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, a source said Viacom is paying well below $300 million for the digital-media company. The final price tag is considerably less than AwesomenessTV’s $650 million valuation after the company’s latest investment in 2016. [THR reported that Viacom paid $25 million plus the assumption of AwesomenessTV debt; the actual total value of the deal is still unconfirmed.]

Word that Viacom was in advanced talks with the company — majority owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal, with stakes held by Verizon and Hearst — emerged earlier this week.

Awesomeness will be integrated into Viacom’s portfolio of brands and live within the Viacom Digital Studios division headed by president Kelly Day (pictured above), formerly chief business officer of Awesomeness.

According to Viacom, current AwesomenessTV CEO Jordan Levin, who has been with the company since May of 2017, will be leaving following a transition period post-acquisition.

Viacom sees AwesomenessTV as boosting its push to produce original premium digital programming with social-video distribution for young, mobile audiences at scale. The ATV Network reaches 158 million unique users with about 300 million monthly views. In addition, AwesomenessTV brings with it a full production studio with an existing library of more than 200 hours of long-form TV series and feature films.

“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,” Day said in a statement. “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.”

Industry sources have said AwesomenessTV was not a good fit under majority owner Comcast/NBCU, which held a 51% stake. Meanwhile, minority shareholder Verizon just shut down Go90 — its ad-supported mobile-video service — which had a big deal with Awesomeness for original shows. Verizon took a $900 million hit against Q2 earnings for various one-time charges, most of which was related to the Go90 platform and associated content.

Awesomeness was co-founded in 2012 by Brian Robbins, who currently serves as president of Paramount Players at Viacom after he left ATV last year, and producer Joe Davola.

Another Awesomeness alumna hired by Viacom is Paula Kaplan, executive VP of talent and development for Viacom Digital Studios, whom Day hired this spring. Prior to joining AwesomenessTV as chief talent officer in 2015, Kaplan worked at Viacom’s Nickelodeon for more than 20 years.

Viacom has recently been stepping up its investment in digital-media under CEO Bob Bakish, coalescing the strategy around Viacom Digital Studios. The company acquired VidCon earlier this year and is planning to expand the video-creator conference brand to London. The media conglomerate also recently bought Whosay, a New York-based influencer-marketing firm incubated by CAA that specializes in targeting young audiences online with branded content.

In 2013 DreamWorks Animation, under then-CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, bought AwesomenessTV in a deal worth at least $33 million — one of the first traditional media companies to place a sizable bet on original digital-video content. Comcast picked up Awesomeness after it completed the $3.8 billion acquisition of DWA.

Two years ago, Verizon paid about $159 million to acquire its stake in AwesomenessTV, giving the digital-media outfit a $650 million valuation. That was double what Awesomeness was valued at when Hearst invested in the company in 2014.

After Robbins left AwesomenessTV last year, the company hired Levin, a veteran TV exec who helped launch the WB Network. This past May, president Brett Bouttier left the company after five and a half years with AwesomenessTV.

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