Viacom acquires Gen Z digital media company AwesomenessTV

Viacom today confirmed it’s acquiring digital media company AwesomenessTV, whose network reaches 158 million subscribers and approximately 300 million monthly views. The news follows a report from earlier this week that said the two were in talks about an acquisition, which priced the deal at “well below $300 million,” according to Variety.

Viacom did not confirm the deal terms, but an under $300 million price point would be less than half of AwesomenessTV’s previous $650 million valuation, cited by Bloomberg. [update: The Hollywood Reporter pegs the price at $25M + debt]

Prior to this, AwesomenessTV was majority owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal which has a 51 percent stake in the company; Hearst and (TechCrunch parent company by way of Oath), Verizon, are minority shareholders with 24.5 percent stakes. When Verizon acquired its stake two years ago, it spent around $159 million, which valued the business then at the $650 million price point, or double its valuation at the time Hearst invested in 2014.

“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,” said Kelly Day, President of Viacom Digital Studios and former Chief Business Officer of AwesomenessTV, in a statement about the deal. “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.”

Viacom’s interest in the property has to do with its ability to reach young viewers – specifically “Gen Z” viewers who are growing up watching YouTube, not traditional TV. AwesomenessTV has reach into this market by way of its 158 million total subscribers and over 6 million YouTube subscribers.

Viacom sees its youth focus as a natural fit that falls in between its younger Nickelodeon and older MTV audiences.

AwesomenessTV’s studio has put out Emmy-winning content, and has developed a library of over 200 hours of long-form TV series and feature films, which it brings to Viacom. It also has connections with those in the digital-native talent and influencer space of value. And it has established relationships with advertisers catering to this youth market, including Hollister, Gatorade, Invisalign, and Kraft, which Viacom took into consideration when making this deal.

Following the deal’s close, AwesomenessTV will be integrated into Viacom’s Digital Studios division led by president Kelly Day, while its existing CEO Jordan Levin will depart. Levin will remain during a transition period only, we understand. But a CEO is no longer needed as AwesomenessTV will not operate as a standalone entity.

AwesomenessTV was co-founded by Brian Robbins, who currently serves as President of Paramount Players at Viacom, and Joe Davola. Robbins connection likely helped to spark the talks, sources had earlier told Variety.

Viacom seemed an ideal suitor for the business, given its interest in digital video/influencer space, which it has acted on before with its February acquisition of the video creator conference VidCon, and its acquisition of the influencer marketing firm Whosay.

The news of the deal also follows the high-profile closure of one of AwesomenessTV partners’ efforts in the streaming space: Verizon’s go90. Verizon had been working with AwesomenessTV to develop short-form original programming for its misguided streaming service go90, which failed to take off and is shutting down for good this month.