Skip to main content

Viacom-Owned Awesomeness Re-emerges as Self-Proclaimed ‘Studio of Gen-Z’

In a different era, one situated just a few short years ago, Awesomeness would be fixated on promoting the Noah Centineo Channel on YouTube.

But after numerous rounds of M&A, which started back in 2013 with Awesomeness’ $33 million purchase by DreamWorks Animation, and continued with Verizon’s $159 million investment into the business in 2016, the former YouTube multichannel network powerhouse now talks more like a traditional studio.

In fact, speaking about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a film produced by Awesomeness and distributed worldwide last year by Netflix, Awesomeness co-head Shelley Zimmerman calls the teen drama a “perfect vehicle” for Awesomeness' heart-throbbish talent Noah Centineo.

“We’re really proud of All the Boys, and how it’s resonated with audiences, and how it’s showcased our strong relationship with talent,” added Zimmerman, who spoke to MCN alongside Awesomeness’ other co-head Rebecca Glashow.

RELATED: Reaching Young Viewers in New Ways is Viacom's Pitch

The discussion with the veteran TV executives was billed by their PR operative as a kind of coming out—the first time they were poking their heads out following Viacom’s $50 million bargain purchase of Awesomeness last summer. (Awesomeness had been valued by as much as $650 million back when Viacom bought in, hoping to turn it into a programming engine for its ultimately doomed mobile content service Go90.)

“I would actually say we’ve been pretty loud over the last nine months,” said Glashow, a former Discovery Communications and Comcast Cable executive, disputing the notion that her executive team has been lying low during the Viacom integration.

Awesomeness co-head Shelley Zimmerman

Awesomeness co-head Shelley Zimmerman

Calling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before “one of the most important films of a generation," Glashow said the film and its upcoming sequel elegantly define Awesomeness’ mission under Viacom, which comes off as equally bombastic -- to be the “studio of Generation Z.”

A Full SVOD Slate

Viacom’s purchase last July included the AwesomenessTV digital network, its film and TV studio business, the Awestruck lifestyle and entertainment brand, as well as an in-house creative agency.

All of these assets were put under the watch of Viacom Digital Studios, which is headed by Kelly Day, an executive who had left her post as chief business officer at Awesomeness to join Viacom back in the fall of 2017.

Reporting directly to Day, both Glashow and Zimmerman, a former Warner Horizon TV executive, have been with Awesomeness since 2016—long enough to have worked with the company’s founder Brian Robbins, during an era in which the company produced some of the most widely viewed YouTube short-form content on the planet.

These days, the focus is much longer in form and fixated on the SVOD market.

With Awesomeness’ NewFront presentation in New York right around the corner, the unit just premiered Pen15, a middle-school-focused comedy co-produced with Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island, on Hulu.

Awesomeness' Rebecca Grashow

Awesomeness' Rebecca Grashow

Also just launching on Hulu was season 2 of Zac & Mia, Awsomeness’ youth drama about two teens battling cancer.

Meanwhile, over on Netflix, Awesomeness is kicking off a busy spring slate with The Perfect Date, which stars Centineo as a high school student who creates a dating app that lets him act as a stand-in boyfriend to earn money for college.

Among other Netflix projects, Awesomeness is also working on Trinkets, which is based on writer Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith’s young-adult novel about teenage girls from different social circles bonding in a 12-step program for habitual shoplifters.

Awesomeness’ multichannel network era, Zimmerman said, was an opportunity to have a “daily conversation” with a youthful audience, with the company debuting as many as 15 short-form videos a week.

“But our growth has been exponential,” she added. “We’re now a robust, full-service studio for TV and film, as well branded content opportunities for various social platforms.

With Glashow officially serving as head of worldwide distribution, Awesomeness’ reach extends to international markets, where programming deals have been carved out with the UK’s Channel 4, RTL in Germany and HBO France, among other buyers.

“We’re out there trying to build the brand and serve this audience and deliver hits. We want everything to speak for itself, Glashow said. 

Daniel Frankel
Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!