Comcast is in discussions to buy DreamWorks for more than $3 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports, a purchase that could see the animation company joining a stable of Comcast-owned studios that includes Universal Pictures. The WSJ says that the acquisition would allow Comcast to put the pressure on Disney by more effectively copying that company's business model, licensing movies such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon for commercial and theme park purposes in much the same way it has already done so with Universal Pictures' animated films like Minions and Despicable Me.
This isn't the first time DreamWorks has been linked with a big telecoms company — the studio held talks with Japanese firm Softbank in 2014, the same year that it also discussed a possible purchase with toy company Hasbro. The Wall Street Journal says CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has been looking for a buyer for DreamWorks for several years, more recently courting offers from potential buyers in China, its ties to the country strengthened by the opening of the Shanghai-based Oriental DreamWorks studio, and Katzenberg's monthly visits.
DreamWorks has been linked with Softbank and Hasbro in the past
In many ways, Universal Pictures' animated movies have outmaneuvered DreamWorks' over the past few years, with each picture — produced by Illumination Entertainment — being generally about $50 million cheaper to put out than DreamWorks' movies. Katzenberg's company has had to dial its production schedule back and lay off workers to cope with decreased demand, but the company is still valued at $2.3 billion, and its links to China may also allow Comcast to push Universal movies in the country more effectively.
A deal would see Illumination and DreamWorks remain as separate brands, the WSJ says, but it's not clear whether a deal with Comcast would see Katzenberg stay at his studio, or leave with a payout of around $21.9 million. But as with previous discussions, the publication notes, the talks may still come to nothing.