VidCon: DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talks YouTube love

Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, on June 18.
Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, on June 18.
(Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press)

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is seeing vertical in the digital space.

The studio behind the “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” movie franchises is steadly building its relationship with online video-sharing giant YouTube. DreamWorks Animation recently acquired popular YouTube network AwesomenessTV, launched its own family-oriented DreamWorksTV channel, and launched the daily show YouTube Nation.

But Katzenberg, speaking at this year’s VidCon online video convention in Anaheim, indicated in a question-and answer session with well-known blogger Hank Green that he’s is looking up and ahead.


About five months since its launch, YouTube Nation -- DreamWorks Animation’s bid to lure the Internet generation -- has racked up 1.6 million subscribers and more than 25 million views.

And it has Katzenberg plotting on the best way to build from that.

“I still think it’s at the beginning of the beginning,” he said before the packed room. “And I think we’ll create verticals here -- YTN Music, YTN Sports, YTN Beauty -- where we can get many more verticals, where we can have an even greater impact across the ecosystem of YouTube. ... It’s not just the linear experience I’m interested in.”

YouTune Nation is a daily show that spotlights the best and most popular videos. The ability to curate is a key component for growth for all parties, Katzenberg said.

He likened it to the days of MTV’s TRL: “Everybody wanted to be on ‘TRL’ because that’s where you could be discovered. I think that’s what this needs to be for the YouTube universe.”

Then there’s the studio’s multimillion-dollar acquisition of popular teen network AwesomenessTV, which marked the company’s first concerted entry into the online video space. Katzenberg said he isn’t sure the company would have entered the space had it not been for AwesomenessTV founder Brian Robbins and the undeniable potential of the YouTube network he created.

“I’ll be honest and say to you, I’m not so sure we would have,” Katzenberg said. “I have to give [Brian] that level of credit because I think he is a singular talent. This world of short-form, snackable content, he’s just incredible at it.”

Katzenberg said it’s a move he’s glad the company took when it did.

“Those who are in it today are the ones who are going to understand it the best tomorrow, and be a part of fit as it evolves,” he said.

Twitter: @villarrealy