According to a report from Deadline.com, DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind such franchises as Shrek and Madagascar, is in talks to shake things up with a pair of moves: a merger with Hasbro and bringing Hearst Publishing into the fold on an online video project.
DreamWorks spokespeople are keeping mum, but sources close to Deadline say that the merger with Hasbro would form a family entertainment company called DreamWorks-Hasbro, chaired by current DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Deadline says the Hasbro board recently paid DreamWorks Animation a visit, and CEO Brian Goldner and his management team discussed “potential film, TV, and consumer product synergies” at a meeting in October.
Hasbro (which owns the rights to Transformers, a property that has lead to four feature films produced by DreamWorks and Paramount) has recently been making moves in order to shore up its entertainment bona fides. Deadline notes that the toy maker owns 40% of Discovery Family, a children’s TV channel that was previously known as The Hub, and recently created the position of EVP-Chief Content Officer to develop content for Hasbro properties across platforms.
This merger would probably benefit DreamWorks Animation and Hasbro about equally. Hasbro gains the cachet of working with the people who made Shrek, and DreamWorks Animation, after a string of films that underperformed at the box office, gets a host of new properties to turn into films. Could Candy Land or Play-Doh become the next Lego Movie? Let’s not forget My Little Pony–will that beloved, resurgent brand make its way to the big screen? The deals would further diversify DreamWorks Animation, moving it away from being seen solely as a movie studio. A previously struck agreement between it and Netflix means more possibilities for Hasbro-themed series on the streaming service.
In a separate deal, DWA is looking to form a joint venture with Hearst Publishing on AwesomenessTV, an online video portal. Hearst would pay $81.25 million for 25% stake. As part of the deal, AwesomenessTV founder Brian Robbins and COO Brett Bouttier would stay on with contract extensions. The money from the deal would be used to launch new digital channels including one aimed at moms and a kids sports channel featuring how-to-videos from athletes.
In AwesomenessTV, both Hearst and DreamWorks have a growing online video network that caters to both moms and their kids, and it’s not hard to imagine those series ending up on Netflix or with Hasbro tie-ins either.