The Mickey Mouse Club may be a thing of the past, but Disney is hoping it has found a new well of young talent online. Reuters reported last week that Walt Disney Co. has announced it will be acquiring leading YouTube network Maker Studios for $500 million.
“Short form online video is growing at an astonishing pace,” says Disney CEO Bob Iger, “and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the centre of this dynamic industry.” Maker Studios currently produces and distributes content across 55,000 channels, to a total global audience of over 380 million subscribers.
“[Maker’s] channels attract more than 4.5 billion monthly views… Those are numbers that put most broadcast and cable operations to shame,” says Selena Larson at ReadWrite. “Yet Maker and other YouTube operators have struggled to make their stars household names. That’s where Hollywood’s hitmakers can help.”
Maker Studios is also partners with video game commentator Felix Kjellberg; better known as PewDiePie, his channel has the highest number of subscribers on YouTube (25 million as of March 2014). Other ‘Makers’ include comedian GloZell, who helped to popularise the ‘cinnamon challenge’ video, and parody artist Bart Baker.
This deal will help Disney establish a more concrete online brand, according to corporate strategy executive vice president Kevin Mayer: “This gives a presence online to reach the millennial group that is increasingly getting its video online… And it gives us a lot of data to help promote our other businesses to them.”
And we are already seeing the initial fruits of this new partnership, with a fashion reality web-series launching next week. Entitled ‘The Next Style Star’, it is a stylist competition co-produced by Maker Studios and Macy’s. It is scheduled to run over ten weeks, and offers a $10,000 prize to the winner. According to Macy’s vice president of digital media Jennifer Kasper, products from Macy’s Impulse line will be integrated into each weekly instalment. Speaking to AdAge, Kasper embraced the marketing potential of collaborating with Maker’s online creators: “There’s an appetite for content that comes from influencers that may be more persuasive than us creating everything ourselves.”