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Viacom Laying Off 98 Awesomeness Employees, or Half the Staff, Following Acquisition

UPDATED: Viacom is making significant cuts at Awesomeness, disclosing plans to lay off nearly 100 employees — or around half of the digital-media company it acquired last month from NBCUniversal, Verizon and Hearst.

In addition, as Viacom previously announced would happen, former Awesomeness CEO Jordan Levin has left the company.

While sources previously indicated Awesomeness was laying off more than 30 staffers this week,  the cutbacks are much deeper than that. According to a notice filed with California’s Employment Development Department, Awesomeness will terminate 50 employees on Oct. 15; 33 who will be let go shortly after Oct. 15; and 15 who will lose their employment on Dec. 31.

Santa Monica-based Awesomeness filed the notice Aug. 16 with the agency under the requirements of the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires at least 60-day advance notice of mass layoffs. Awesomeness’ filing of the WARN notice was previously reported by Deadline.

“As we begin to integrate Awesomeness and streamline the organization within Viacom, a number of positions were impacted,” a Viacom rep said in a statement. “We are grateful for the many contributions of each individual and continue to work diligently to ensure a smooth transition.”

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Awesomeness is now housed under Viacom Digital Studios, led by Kelly Day, formerly chief business officer of AwesomenessTV, who joined Viacom last fall.

The layoffs at Awesomeness affected corporate positions that were duplicative with Viacom, including human resources, IT, legal and finance departments. But multiple producers and creative executives, as well as personnel in marketing and talent partnerships are also among those getting let go.

The Awesomeness employees laid off include Bonnie Pan, head of the AwesomenessTV network; Matthew Signer, head of Awesomeness Films; Bradley Buchanan, executive VP of business and legal affairs; and CTO Jen Robinson.

According to sources familiar with the pact, Viacom’s acquisition of Awesomeness is worth at least $50 million. That’s far below the implied a $650 million valuation of AwesomenessTV, after Verizon paid about $159 million to acquire its 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV in 2016.

What pushed Awesomeness’ stakeholders to strike a deal with Viacom was Verizon’s decision to shut down Go90, which had ordered multiple original shows from Awesomeness, including social-media thriller “@Tagged,” “My Dead Ex,” speed-dating series “Third Wheel” and high-school drama “Guidance.”

A factor affecting the value of the Viacom deal for ATV was that the sale did not include DreamWorksTV, the YouTube kids’ entertainment channel, which is being retained by NBCU. Meanwhile, sources said neither DreamWorks Animation (which bought AwesomenessTV in 2013 when it was just one year old) nor NBCU internally valued the Awesomeness business on the basis of the Verizon or Hearst investments. (Comcast/NBCU picked up the majority ownership of Awesomeness with the $3.8 billion acquisition of DreamWorks Animation.)

Awesomeness was co-founded by Brian Robbins — who left as CEO last year to join Viacom as president of Paramount Players — and producer Joe Davola.

After joining Viacom, Day hired another Awesomeness alumna: Paula Kaplan, executive VP of talent and development for Viacom Digital Studios, who was previously AwesomenessTV’s chief talent officer.

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