NBCUniversal is the closest thing to a rival to The Walt Disney Company in the market today and with the just announced acquisition of DreamWorks animation, that rivalry just got a bit more heated. NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, now effectively owns two animation studios, DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment, which it has an exclusive relationship with (like Disney once had with Pixar). Both studios have shown the potential to generate the sort of stories that can compete with Disney and Pixar at the box office.
Of course, what goes up on the big screen, could potentially appear at the theme parks and this is another area of rivalry both domestically and around the globe. The Universal Studios brand theme parks already incorporate some DreamWorks brands (Shrek) and will now have access to the whole library of classic and new characters in DreamWorks’ considerable library.
Both Orlando and Southern California theme park and resort markets are in a growing race for the tourist dollar. Universal also has a growing international theme park presence where it finds competition with Disney if not down the street, just a short hop away.
For Disney fans, I think this offers a small glimmer of hope that Universal Orlando may want to dump the Marvel brand, which it doesn’t control, in favor of a brand that it now has lock, stock and barrel. Why profit off just a piece of the pie, when you can have the whole tin. As it stands now, Disney can’t do anything branded Marvel in its theme parks on the East coast.
You can’t blame Comcast, which has tried to buy the Walt Disney Company in the past, for attempting to follow the Disney model. It’s been a pretty spectacular success for the Mouse House.
“DreamWorks Animation is a great addition to NBCUniversal,” said Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal. “Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks organization have created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property. DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come. We have enjoyed extraordinary success over the last six years in animation with the emergence of Illumination Entertainment and its brilliant team at Illumination Mac Guff studio. The prospects for our future together are tremendous. We are fortunate to have Illumination founder Chris Meledandri to help guide the growth of the DreamWorks Animation business in the future.”
Current DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg isn’t exactly being shown the door, he’ll stay on in some capacity as chair of a few properties and serve as a consultant to NBCUniversal.
“Having spent the past two decades working together with our team to build DreamWorks Animation into one of the world’s most beloved brands, I am proud to say that NBCUniversal is the perfect home for our company; a home that will embrace the legacy of our storytelling and grow our businesses to their fullest potential,” said Katzenberg. “This agreement not only delivers significant value for our shareholders, but also supports NBCUniversal’s growing family entertainment business. As for my role, I am incredibly excited to continue exploring the potential of AwesomenessTV, NOVA and other new media opportunities, and can’t wait to get started.”
This does probably end Katzenberg’s best chance at running a major Hollywood studio. But I have been impressed with what he managed to do with DreamWorks animation in a very difficult market. Do you perceive NBCUniversal as a rival to Disney? If so, how do you think they’re doing?