Verizon and Awesomeness TV have officially shuttered the premium mobile-first streaming service the two companies set in motion last year. As part of the news, AwesomenessTV has cut ties with content chief Samie Kim Falvey (pictured), who came to Awesomeness from ABC Comedy in late summer 2016, and her team. Now, barely six months later, the business has been shut down and a restructure is in progress, according to various sources who had been progressing deals with Falvey.
In a joint statement released by Verizon and AwesomenessTV earlier this afternoon, the two companies tout the success of programming like “@Tagged” and “Guidance” and note that the funds allocated for building the service are being re-routed into development rather than building a new platform from scratch.
However, the decision to fold the yet-to-be-named JV was largely a result of the Jeffrey Katzenberg-led sale of Dreamworks to Comcast last April, which has, according to insiders at the company, “changed the nature of the relationship” between Dreamworks, AwesomenessTV and Verizon in a significant way. And Hearst, while a stakeholder, is not a contributor but a passive investor, according to one source.
Insiders also tell VideoInk that discussions between Verizon and Comcast took place last summer to try to reach an agreement for buying each other’s shares, one way or the other, but the parties couldn’t reach a reasonable valuation for the business.
AwesomenessTV has been valued, according to various media reports, upwards of $400 million; however, when you slice the deals between Verizon’s $190 million content deal with Awesomeness TV from 2015, and the investment it made to acquire stake in the business, sources claim it became “difficult to land on a true valuation because what’s the value of AwesomenessTV without Verizon’s money if Comcast buys the shares and Verizon pulls its deal, and what’s the value of the business if all the revenue is from Verizon and owned by Verizon?”
Still, AwesomenessTV has had a stable of successful programs under its belt in long form and mid-length formats, both on digital and traditional distribution channels.
And Falvey had built out a team and a development slate for high end short form video and was mid-conversation with some of Hollywood’s marquee players before the business suddenly went quiet last week causing agents, managers and production execs to start chattering about how Verizon and Awesomeness TV were on the fritz.
“We are big fans of Samie and the super creative team she assembled,” said Brett Bouttier, President, AwesomenessTV, in another statement distributed later in the day. “We are grateful to have worked with her and her team and are eager to find ways to work with them going forward.”
But, with a year into the JV, there are losses that extend beyond the staff.
“As with any investment that goes this way, there’s definitely a loss, but Verizon is still very bullish on spending with Awesomeness in a big way,” another insider told VideoInk, noting that the relationship with Comcast has opened up conversations with the various broadcast networks businesses housed under the cable operator.
For Verizon, and go90, Awesomeness TV is one piece of the content puzzle, which also extends to Verizon’s other investments like Complex Networks and acquisitions, like AOL.
“We think this is a huge market and we believe there can be more than two players in this space,” Marni M. Walden, Executive Vice President and President of Product Innovation & New Businesses, Verizon said at the iab conference in late January, where she also spoke of Verizon’s agenda in the mobile-first space among a younger audience.
“We made some investments in AwesomenessTV, Complex Networks, we’ll do a number of things with content.” adding that Verizon has “learned a ton about content but the formation of the content was originals for mobile, which [Verizon] did a lot of through Awesomeness and now through Complex Networks…”
With today’s news, the deal with Awesomeness and Verizon has been extended, said one insider, the businesses are restructuring the direction of their work together with a focus on Awesomeness’ sweet spot — being a producer of premium programming, rather than a tech start up building product.