Unlike most other major digital platforms, Disney’s Maker Studios turned down the volume of hype for its Newfront presentation today — unveiling its programming plans at what it describes as “an intimate breakfast with brand clients.”
Today’s theme, it says, was “focus.” Maker plans to pay attention to core genres including gaming, life and style, entertainment and kids and family. That’s a contrast to last year, when the specialist in shortform programming trumpeted ambitious plans to work with Disney units including Marvel, ESPN, and ABC’s Lincoln Square Productions.
Courtney Holt, who runs Maker, says the operation pitched advertisers on “our leadership position in distinct programming genres” as well as opportunities where “we can collaboratively work together.”
It unveiled four concepts from its Spark incubator program approved to be developed into series. They include Spin for Ink, a game show where contestants endure “extreme challenges” to win “a new tattoo of their dreams”; Worthy, made up of inspirational stories to help people reach their goals; The Remember Hour, a “dystopian puppet show” where characters in a postapocalyptic society share what they know about the past; and Can I Crush It? where fans recommend things that Kali Muscle might, or might not, be able to crush).
“In a media landscape where video has become commoditized, now, more than ever, it’s important to focus on differentiated strengths,” Head of Development & Studios Gabriel Lewis says. “Spark by Maker is just one example of how Maker’s approach to content remains forward-thinking.”
Maker adds that it is still creating “synergistic campaigns and programs across divisions” at Disney. Last year it was a key part of the company’s “Force Friday” initiative, showing unboxing videos of new toys and licensed merchandise tied to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Disney committed $500 million for Maker in 2014 — with an additional $450 million possible if the company hit undisclosed financial targets. But Maker fell short: Disney paid out $198 million, including about $100 million for the fiscal year that ended in early October.
In January, Holt became head of Maker, replacing Ynon Kreiz. In August, Chief Content Officer Erin McPherson and SVP of Marketing Jeremy Welt left. Last month UTA hired Sam Wick, who had been Maker’s EVP and GM of Enterprise, to be an exec at its Digital Media department focusing on building new businesses for the agency’s client roster.
Disney says that in fiscal 2015 Maker’s revenue and net income “were not material.”