Maker Studios made its name as a multichannel network, but it didn’t use that wonky Internet video term to describe itself during its NewFronts presentation. Instead, Maker stressed its huge content factory as filled with gamers, pranksters, fashionistas, athletes and nerds.
A year after Disney bought Maker Studios, the leading multichannel network used its NewFronts event to reveal how it is (finally) leveraging the brands of its corporate parent. Not only does the Maker video network have massive scale — it now gets up to 10 billion monthly video views across 55,000 channels, according to Maker president Ynon Kreiz — but its new programming slate is rich with Disney brand integration, from Marvel to ESPN.
“We’re looking to bring opportunities to their brands,” said Courtney Holt, chief strategy officer at Maker Studios, in a conversation with Digiday following the presentation. “We’ve had hundreds of meetings across the company to help them understand what we can do.”
Maker has over 200 shows currently in development, with 30 in active production, according to Kreiz. Some of that content will feature Marvel intellectual property, such as Spider-Man and The Avengers, though Maker didn’t identify specific Marvel shows. Maker also unveiled a partnership with the ESPN-operated X Games, which will pair top extreme sports athletes with Maker creators beginning this summer. And the company announced “I Am Maker,” a docu-series about Maker’s emerging YouTube stars that will air on Disney-owned ABC Family.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Kreiz. “Being part of the Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest media organization, has given us access to some of the most beloved brands and franchises in the universe.”
The company’s programming slate hits all the major Web video categories, from gaming and comedy to food and fashion. For many, its hits aren’t household names — “Epic Rap Battles of History” isn’t exactly “Top Gear” — but given the low cost of production relative to television and film, Maker gets more swings at the plate.
“I haven’t had to have the apologetic conversation about the look and feel of our content, because hundreds of millions of people [watch it],” said Holt. “Advertisers want predictability, schedule. And we’re producing content on schedule. Sometimes people perceive quality as different from value, but I think they’re the same thing.”
Maker has a product to facilitate collaboration between brand advertisers and its creators called “Maker Offers,” which has processed hundreds of campaigns representing over $25 million in sponsorship dollars, according to Maker’s chief content officer Eric McPherson. Jason Krebs, Maker’s sales chief, highlighted a Marvel campaign that kicked off yesterday: 300 influencers shared which Avenger they would be through video content and on social channels. The campaign got 100 million impressions in 24 hours, he said.
The company announced a new ad product called “Maker Select,” a media-buying platform powered by Outrigger Media’s OpenSlate technology. It enables marketers to buy any YouTube media inventory through Maker, pairing metrics on content quality and brand safety with Nielsen’s online campaign rating guarantees for demographic targeting and ad placement transparency. DigitasLBi and Starcom MediaVest Group will share Maker Select with their clients.
A line snaking down the block marched into the Skylight Clarkson SQ, a hip warehouse space in west SoHo. Maker kicked off the morning with juice shots and mimosas, which attendees (and a few presenters) slurped up with vigor. The main hall was dark, chilly and lined with very loud speakers. One audience member audibly contemplated death by sizzle reel.
“Ultimately, hits are hits,” said Holt. “And data won’t necessarily create a hit. A book publishing company tried to crowdsource a novel, and it was shit. People don’t know what they want until they get it.”
“The talent announced, along with their new strategic partnerships with Marvel and ESPN, were impressive and very much in line with their millennial audience,” said Magda Alvarez, associate media director at Razorfish. “The unexpected part was Maker’s focus on investing in tech, which has allowed them to expand their content and distribution outside of their original programming.”
Images courtesy of Maker Studios