In a massive purchase of one of the last remaining independent and publicly traded studios, Comcast’s NBCUniversal has made a deal to acquire DreamWorks Animation, a deal that values the animation studio at $3.8 billion. DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had long been looking for a buyer for the studio, courting such suitors as Japan’s SoftBank and even Hasbro, but nothing materialized. Until now. Katzenberg will enjoy a $21.9 million payout in the deal, which sees him departing his position as the head of the studio.
But as THR reports, when the deal closes, Katzenberg will chair DreamWorks New Media, which comprises the company’s ownership interests in Awesomeness TV and NOVA; he’ll also serve as a consultant to NBCUniversal. The studio itself will be folded into the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango, and NBCUniversal Brand Development. Illumination founder Christopher Meledandri, the man you can thank for Despicable Me/Minions, will “help guide the growth of the DreamWorks Animation business in the future,” the company said.
What does this mean for the newly joined studios? As NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke put it:
DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come. We have enjoyed extraordinary success over the last six years in animation with the emergence of Illumination Entertainment and its brilliant team at Illumination Mac Guff studio. The prospects for our future together are tremendous.
When the deal closes, presumably by the end of the year, NBCU/DWA is expected to emerge as a stronger contender for family-friendly media content. In other words, a concentration of competition aimed at the likes of Walt Disney Animation/Pixar. Though the higher-ups at each company have signed off on the deal, it still needs to be approved by the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission which “will need to determine between themselves as to which agency reviews the transaction from an antitrust perspective.” When it’s all said and done, they’ll all be under the purview of the Sheinhardt Wig Company.
What’s most interesting about this deal is how it will affect each studio’s previously independent properties. Will the Minions now cross paths with characters from Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Madagascar? You can probably count on it, especially in a time when major movie studios are looking to develop a shared universe that concentrates their most lucrative properties and uses them to boost interest in new or flagging franchises. This will likely extend beyond the movie screen and into TV properties, digital media, and games, as well. Synergy!