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Media Entertainment

Can a Dose of Awesomeness Save Viacom?

Two years ago, as media mogul Shari Redstone was assuming control of her family’s cable TV firm Viacom, she asked Brian Robbins, then CEO of the popular online video company, AwesomenessTV, for his thoughts on how to fix the beleaguered company, according to people familiar with the situation. Viacom ended up installing Mr. Robbins in a new position at Viacom’s Paramount Pictures studio, the first of several former Awesomeness executives to join Viacom.

That infusion of digital new blood culminated in Viacom’s acquisition last week of Awesomeness, known for short videos aimed at young teenagers watching mostly on YouTube, for a price said to be $25 million. That’s a huge comedown from the valuation of $650 million that Awesomeness reached two years ago after an investment by Verizon. It seems unlikely that Viacom can restore Awesomeness to its former glory—like other companies making short online videos, Awesomeness has struggled to make enough money from ad revenue, and a surge of interest in its shows from streaming services has dissipated.

A more important question, though, is whether the digital experience brought by the Awesomeness team can help revive growth at Viacom.

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‘At Awesomeness, we would say we have an idea today, we shoot tomorrow and we put it out the next day.’