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Viacom in Talks to Buy AwesomenessTV

Viacom is in advanced talks to acquire AwesomenessTV, the youth-skewing digital media company currently owned by Comcast, Verizon and Hearst, sources confirmed to Variety.

In the negotiations, Viacom is offering less than than half of AwesomenessTV’s previous $650 million valuation, according to a Bloomberg report, following an earlier post by VideoInk. The Awesomeness assets are seen as a good fit in the Viacom portfolio — and one source said financial terms under discussion are very attractive, characterizing the price well below $300 million.

Viacom declined to comment. Reps for AwesomenessTV didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Awesomeness is majority-owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal, which holds a 51% interest, with 24.5% stakes owned by Verizon and Hearst. The L.A.-based company has a distribution footprint that spans owned-and-operated, social, and subscription VOD platforms. Awesomeness’s business also includes a creative agency, a YouTube creator network, and brand partnerships division.

AwesomenessTV had a major deal with Verizon to produce short-form originals for go90, the ad-supported mobile-video service that the telco is shutting down this month.

Awesomeness was co-founded in 2012 by Brian Robbins, who exited as CEO in early 2017 and is now president of Viacom’s Paramount Players youth-focused entertainment production division. Last fall, Viacom recruited Kelly Day, previously chief business officer at AwesomenessTV exec as president of Viacom Digital Studios.

The familiarity of Robbins and Day with the Awesomeness business is another plus that’s fueled Viacom’s interest, sources say. The deal is still being worked out between Viacom and AwesomenessTV’s owners, and it’s possible they won’t clinch an agreement.

Viacom has recently been stepping up its investment in digital-media under CEO Bob Bakish. The company earlier this year acquired VidCon, the eight-year-old video-creator conference, and is planning to expand the event 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 tapped Jordan Levin, a veteran TV exec who helped launch the WB Network, as CEO. President Brett Bouttier quietly exited the company in May, after five and a half years with AwesomenessTV.

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