Comcast, the parent of NBC Universal and Universal Pictures, has agreed to buy DreamWorks Animation SKG for $3.8 billion, in a deal that builds on the studio's film and TV franchises adding characters like "Shrek" as well as a U.S.-based production house.
Comcast will pay $41 a share in cash for the animation studio, according to a statement Thursday that described NBC Universal as the buyer and said DreamWorks Animation will become a unite of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which houses Universal Pictures, Fandango, and NBC Universal Brand Development.
DreamWorks Animation founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will become chairman of DreamWorks New Media, which includes the company's ownership interests in Awesomeness TV and Nova, and will be a consultant to NBC Universal. Chris Meledandri, the founder of Universal Pictures' Illumination Entertainment, will run the combined animation business, Comcast said.
Buying the maker of the "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" films would bolster Comcast's children's lineup in theaters and add online assets like Awesomeness TV, which targets millennials on YouTube. For Mr. Katzenberg, who has tried to sell DreamWorks Animation before, the deal brings to an end more than a year of speculation about the its future and would finally shelter the company from stock market volatility linked to whether the few movies it releases a year are hits or misses.
Comcast would make an ideal parent for DreamWorks, especially with its ownership of Illumination, maker of hit films "Minions" and "Despicable Me," said Neil Campling, a media analyst at Aviate Global in London. He rates Illumination as the No. 3 animation studio behind Disney and Pixar.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, Comcast said.
-- Bloomberg News