Disney’s possible deal to buy Maker Studios — which is among YouTube’s biggest content providers — would “value the YouTube network at $500 million or more,” tech news site Re/code reported, citing anonymous sources. The deal could rise to as much as $900 million if Maker hits financial-performance targets, Financial Times reported, also citing unidentified people.
To date, Maker Studios has raised more than $70 million, including a $26 million follow-on in its series C round last September.
A Maker Studios rep declined to comment. Disney reps did not respond to requests for comment.
Traditional media congloms have been boosting their focus on digital content, through partnerships and strategic investments. Most recently, Warner Bros. led an $18 million funding round in Machinima, the ailing videogame-focused YouTube MCN. Last year, DreamWorks Animation bought AwesomenessTV in a deal worth up to $117 million.
A Disney takeover of Maker Studios, if it actually happens, would represent an unprecedented incursion into the YouTube world by a Hollywood studio.
Separately, Disney Interactive — the company’s Internet and game division — announced last week that it is eliminating 700 jobs, about 26% of its total workforce. The unit has struggled to achieve profitability, despite such hits as the “Disney Infinity” game. It isn’t clear where Maker Studios would end up in the Mouse House if a deal were consummated.
Maker Studios claims it serves 5.5 billion monthly views, with 380 million subscribers to 50,000 YouTube channels it owns or manages on behalf of partners. Its roster of talent includes PewDiePie — the most-subscribed third-party channel on YouTube, currently with about 24.8 million followers — as well as KassemG, EpicLloyd’s “Epic Rap Battles of History,” the Shaytards and Snoop Lion’s WestFestTV.
The MCN’s laundry list of investors includes: Time Warner Investments; Upfront Ventures; Greycroft Partners; Ynon Kreiz, Maker’s executive chairman; Downey Ventures, the investment company for Robert Downey Jr.; Elisabeth Murdoch; Fuel: M+C, the investment company for John Miller and Jimmy Yaffe; Daher Capital; and producer Jon Landau. More recent backers include French media conglom Canal Plus; Astro Overseas, the government of Malaysia’s strategic investment fund; Singapore telecom provider SingTel; and venture-capital firms Lakestar and Northgate Capital.