Mr Dreamworks’ digital design
By Kate Bulkley
For Broadcast October 17, 2013
YouTube and Netflix deals point to clear objective, says Kate Bulkley
Jeffrey Katzenberg, aka Mr Dreamworks, is the man who gave us big-screen favourites such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. So what was he doing at Mipcom?
Well, Dreamworks and its newly acquired YouTube channel AwesomenessTV both had sales booths at the market for the first time and Katzenberg (pictured) was picking up the Mipcom Personality of the Year Award. At the dinner honouring his win, he joked that he was surprised to win an award for his personality – having been variously described as “impatient, obsessive, abrasive, aggressive, grandiose, pushy, hyper-controlling and egotistical”. Clearly the man recognises that he’s pretty intense.
He’s pretty smart, too, having struck a 300-hour original programming deal with Netflix and purchased Awesomeness for $33m (£20m), putting digital distribution front and centre. This is not because the film model is broken (of the 20 CGI Dreamworks movies, 19 have been profitable and the average box office gross is more than $500m), but because the deals put Dreamworks “directly in touch with the teen audience in a way that movies and TV can’t”.
He had some nice things to say about TV, including the fact that Awesomeness just sold a block of programming to Nickelodeon. He also predicted that both linear TV and digital programming will “explode globally within the next decade”.
But the point is that Katzenberg sees many of the opportunities in TV starting in the digital space. Under the Netflix deal, for example, Netflix gets the SVoD rights in the relevant markets, but Dreamworks builds a library it can exploit elsewhere, including on TV. Plus, Awesomeness, despite its name, is on YouTube.
When I interviewed Katzenberg on stage (the voice of Eddie Murphy, aka Donkey from Shrek, introduced me), he dismissed the idea of launching a linear TV channel as “too hard”. Instead he enthused about how Awesomeness is the harbinger of big things for the TV business, not least moving into “bits, bytes and snacks” of content to fill up waiting times that used to be filled by either boredom or Tetris.
He has a roadmap for Dreamworks’ non-film content business that predicts creating 1,100 episodes of TV over the next five years and doubling TV revenue from $100m (£63m) this year to $200m (£126m) by 2015. A big part of that will be reimagining the 450 characters (including Lassie, Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Lone Ranger) that are part of the Classic Media library Dreamworks bought last year for $155m (£97m). Many of these will have their first airing on Netflix – and perhaps Awesomeness. All this is a reminder of the changing TV landscape, with Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and Hulu at its heart.
Just after the market ended, Sony announced its first original series for Netflix – an untitled project from the creators of Damages, and demand for Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black was one of the big talking points of the market.
But not everything changes. The awards dinner was moved forward so Katzenberg’s private jet could take off for his next stop in China (Dreamworks has a joint-venture animation studio there), just before the French air controllers’ strike kicked in. TV trends come and go, but everything stops for Hollywood.