Universal Pictures is reportedly considering selling its stake in Oriental DreamWorks to Warner Bros. about one year after parent company Comcast bought the studio for $3.8 billion.
According to the Financial Times, Universal is looking to dump its 45% stake in the studio. The other 55% of Oriental DreamWorks is owned by China Media Group. Oriental DreamWorks was responsible for releasing “Kung Fu Panda 3” in 2016 but has not put out another animated feature since then.
Comcast bought DreamWorks Animation last year, put Chris Meledandri, head of Universal's Illumination Entertainment animation wing, in charge of it and folded it into its Filmed Entertainment Group.
In addition to growing its Filmed Entertainment portfolio, NBCUniversal is also leveraging the DreamWorks buy to revamp some of its cable networks. Sprout will be renamed Universal Kids starting Sept. 9 and its programming will target kids ages 2-11, instead of the primary preschool-age children for whom Sprout currently programs. Universal Kids will feature more unscripted programming, including “Top Chef Junior,” a spinoff of the “Top Chef” series which currently airs on Bravo, a network that is also owned by NBCUniversal. More of Universal Kids’ programming will be filled out by existing DreamWorks shows including “All Hail King Julien.”
Reports of an imminent sale of Oriental DreamWorks accompany reports from earlier this year indicating that the division was in trouble, due for restructuring and possibly up for sale.
According to Variety, Oriental DreamWorks earlier this year laid off 40 animators.
For Warner Bros., a potential purchase of Oriental DreamWorks surfaces as its parent company, Time Warner Inc., is heading into the home stretch of its $85 billion merger with AT&T.
The proposed transaction just received the OK from Chilean regulators, marking the 17th merger approval from competition authorities outside the U.S.