Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit said Thursday it had agreed to acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, giving it access to a stable of valuable characters including Kung Fu Panda and Shrek as it competes head-on with Disney.
NBCUniversal will pay $41 a share for the studio, representing a 50% premium to the price before The Wall Street Journal reported Comcast was in talks with DreamWorks. The stock was up 24%, at $39.95, in trading on Thursday.
For NBCUniversal, the deal emulates Disney’s model of assembling content through acquisitions. DreamWorks will become part of its Filmed Entertainment Group, while Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg will give up his role as DreamWorks’ CEO after the deal closes.
“DreamWorks Animation is a great addition to NBCUniversal,” Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said in a news release. “Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks organization have created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property.”
Katzenberg said NBC Universal would be a “perfect home” for DreamWorks. “This agreement not only delivers significant value for our shareholders, but also supports NBCUniversal’s growing family entertainment business,” he said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, DreamWork’s colorful creations would have enormous value for NBCUniversal’s growing Universal Studios theme park unit and provide it with a “vibrant TV operation, which churns out hundreds of hours of animated family entertainment.”
“Comcast’s ambitions date back more than a decade when the Philadelphia company tried but failed to buy Disney in a hostile takeover,” The Times noted in an earlier article. “Ever since, Comcast has assembled pieces of the puzzle, buying NBCUniversal in 2011 and later bulking up its Universal Studios theme parks.”
Disney has built its powerhouse brand with the acquisitions of such studios as Pixar Animation and Marvel Entertainment.
Wired predicted the children’s film business will turn largely into a two-studio race between Comcast and Disney. “How does DreamWorks help [Comcast]?” it asked. “Franchises. Lots and lots of kid-friendly characters, lunchbox fodder turned into rides and experiences.”