Andy Heyward’s Genius Brands has acquired Canadian animation production house WOW! Unlimited Media in a deal valued at $53 million.
WOW! brings to Genius a busy content operation that has produced mostly children’s programming for such outlets as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Peacock and studios such as Sony, Dreamworks, Moonbug and Mattel. WOW! also is home to the Channel Frederator Network, a streaming platform for animation creators. That will pair nicely under the Genius umbrella with its existing Kartoon Channel service.
WOW! said it had earnings of $5.1 million during the 12-month period from July 2020 to June 2021 on revenue of $56.4 million. The deal is a mixture of cash and stock. Genius also emphasized the importance of WOW!’s status as a Canadian firm in making the most of the country’s generous production incentives.
“The acquisition of WOW! substantially accelerates the financial growth of Genius Brands, delivering on our promise to shareholders to execute meaningful and accretive acquisitions, as we seek to rapidly consolidate the marketplace and become the foremost producer, broadcaster and consumer product licensor of high-quality children’s entertainment in the world,” Heyward said.
Heyward added that he has known WOW! CEO Michael Hirsh for years in animation circles and praised its use of social media to build new businesses. Hirsh will continue to oversee the operations of selected brands and join Genius Brands’ board of directors.
“There is nobody more talented, accomplished or well regarded. His track record of many hits includes the first Star Wars animated programs, ‘Magic School Bus,’ ‘Care Bears,’ ‘Babar,’ ‘Johnny Test’ and ‘Beetlejuice,’ among others,” Heyward said. “In addition to the animation productions of WOW! today and the exciting new brand brought to the table for Genius Brands, WOW! has a massive social media footprint across YouTube, TikTok, Giphy, etc., expanding the Genius Brands kids’ audience demo into the lucrative teens and young adult marketplaces.”
Hirsh said the combination with Genius, which also produces children’s animation for the global marketplace, brought natural synergies and growth opportunities. Genius hailed it as creating “an end-to-end animation eco-system” in announcing the news.
“This is a powerful partnership that brings immediate and enormous value for shareholders. We bring production capacity, new IP, and a robust and profitable YouTube Network with over a billion views per month,” Hirsh said. “Genius Brands, with Kartoon Channel!, has a fully distributed footprint where our content can thrive and also help Kartoon Channel! itself expand. The synergies and growth opportunities are enormous.”
(Pictured: Andy Heyward)