That’s according to CEO Ynon Kreiz of Maker Studios, the online multi-channel network that Disney bought earlier this spring for $500 million (plus the chance to earn out $450 million more). “We did not want to sell the company to Disney initially,” said Kreiz during a “fireside chat” at today’s Vidcon conference and fan festival in Anaheim, Calif. “The conversation started out as a partnership. As the conversation evolved, it became very clear that there was a very strong fit between the companies. It became very clear that we belong to each other.”
Kreiz cautioned that it’s still early given that the deal only closed in March, but the plan is to connect the YouTube creators in Maker’s network (there are tens of thousands of them) with the big entertainment brands that Disney controls, including Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, ESPN, ABC, Jimmy Kimmel and more. “What we did is bring Disney into the YouTube ecosystem, right through the front door,” Kreiz said. “The idea is to allow our creators to embrace the Disney franchises. This will provide access to our creators, our talent to be part of that ecosystem in working with Disney content.”
That front-door connection between a big studio and a big MCN is important, Kreiz said, because online video, especially within the sprawling distribution platform that YouTube has created, is different from traditional TV and film productions. “Many people make the mistake that short-form content is like TV but shorter,” Kreiz said. “That’s not the case. Short-form is a whole different medium. What started as a phenomenon of self expression with cats on skateboards has changed. We have to give credit to YouTube. What’s really happening is it moved beyond self expression to real money.”
Kreiz also touted the potential of the company’s recently launched Maker.TV site, which provides online access to what he called “the best of everything we do,” including shows such as Next Time with Lonny. While YouTube will be “forever our biggest distributor,” the standalone site gives the company more control, better metrics and the ability to better promote shows and do more sophisticated partnerships with brands. It also makes it easier for the company to reach international audiences, who comprise 70 percent of its viewers. “Think of it as the premium version of Maker,” Kreiz said. “We add 500,000 to 750,000 new videos to the platform every month. When we have this huge, massive reach on YouTube, we take the best of it and put it on Maker.TV.”
The MCN’s collection of creators includes PewDiePie, a Swedish man who specializes videogame gameplay shorts and has amassed nearly 28 million subscribers, the largest such audience on YouTube. But it also includes tens of thousands of others, and the company chooses another 100 to 300 a day to join. It’s also getting more and more traditional entertainers reaching out, trying to start their own channels online. “They do it because it’s a way to connect to their audiences in a much more direct way,” Kreiz said. “What they find is a whole new way to reach and engage with Millennials. More than ever before, the Millennial generation has infinite choice to find what they like to do, or what content they want to enjoy. We see very few people leaving us, and more traditional talent wanting to join.”
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