Shrek-makers begin year with a fully-loaded agenda

Dreamworks re-makes itself with a flurry of deals.

Reuters August 05, 2013
Dreamworks bought a YouTube network, acquired the rights to the Troll toy franchise, signed a deal with the Chinese and is also getting ready for a TV series. PHOTO: FILE

LOS ANGELES: Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc, the studio that built one of Hollywood’s largest film franchises on the back of a green ogre named Shrek, has suddenly become one of the entertainment industry’s busiest dealmakers.

In the last year, Dreamworks has bought a YouTube network aimed at teenagers and picked up a company that controls such iconic characters as Lassie and Casper the Friendly Ghost. It acquired the rights to the Troll toy franchise and in June, signed a deal to produce a TV series for streaming video service Netflix Inc. It also plans to build a $3 billion entertainment complex with partners in China.

And Dreamworks isn’t finished.

“There will definitely be more deals,” Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg said. “I have never seen more opportunities to build our brand in our 19 years in business.”

Katzenberg will not say what else is on his list, or whether he prefers to buy or partner with other companies.

One thing still percolating, he says, is a Dreamworks cable channel, “but there’s nothing out there right now for us.”

Dreamworks’ acquisition spree comes at a time when the animated film market has become so saturated with studio-backed fare that the studio’s most recent entry, Turbo, debuted with two other animated films already in the market.

Turbo ended up with lacklustre ticket sales of $21 million in the United States and Canada during its first weekend. Earlier this year, Dreamworks took an $87 million write down for its holiday-themed Rise of the Guardians, and another $54 million charge to rework Me & My Shadow.

Dreamworks hopes acquisitions can help expand its popular franchises, such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, beyond the big screen to television, toys and even theme parks.

Investors have welcomed Katzenberg’s diversification strategy, sending Dreamworks shares up 50% in the past year.

Dreamworks also is expanding in China, and is working with partners through a joint venture called Oriental Dreamworks.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2013.

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