Disney in Talks to Buy YouTube Network Maker Studios for $500 Million or More: Reports

The Walt Disney Co. is in discussions about potentially acquiring YouTube multichannel network Maker Studios, according to reports.

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.

SEE ALSO: Warner Bros. Is Buying a Stake in Struggling YouTube Net Machinima. Here’s Why

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.

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  1. Hope says:

    Who ever buys it will have control of what goes on it. Why is the instrested buyer hiding his identity. Maybe this person is against free speech. Maybe another way to shut down. any view not embraced by thebuyer

  2. Ted S. says:

    Maker doesn’t actually own the content, so what exactly is Disney thinking they are buying? If Pewdiepie leaves Maker, there go the eyeballs. Maker’s business plan wasn’t exactly well thought out in that regard, and there are many people working there who have no real experience or idea how the entertainment industry actually works. Good for them, I suppose, if they can sell, but I have a feeling that due diligence by any potential acquiring company will shine a light on a whole lot of nothing and no actual value.

  3. K. T. says:

    I hope this doesn’t happen. And anyway, at least Pewds is smart enough not to. It would mean him being not allowed to make any of his content. Right now he just finished the second episode of the Walking Dead and is playing a South Park game. Disney would never allow these things and so it would change his own channel. He might even have to delete it. And with him having his own website and community, I don’t think he will.

    • A.J.O. says:

      You don’t understand, ‘pewds’ (as you called him) is under contract with polaris, which is a subsidiary of maker studios. He wouldn’t have a choice in the matter.

  4. Jane Doe says:

    This has been the plan since Ynon Kreiz took over. Con somebody into buying the company and the original Makers retire.

  5. Chelsea says:

    Not liking the way this sounds. :(

  6. Thomas Voelker says:

    I hate to see this.

  7. Kenny says:

    Shows how out of it I am. I have no idea what any of those things were. But hey, hits don’t lie.

  8. Liam Scanlan says:

    If this deal happens, and if the acquisition is able to get completed, then I think Disney should rename ABC Family as “The Maker Channel” or something similar, and put shows with people like PewDiePie on it, because I don’t think the network is doing well.

  9. Eddie says:

    Disney needs to stop spending this kind of money frivolously and start investing in better movies, better creative, better theme park attractions, better theme park maintenance, and more original content. Moves like this just waste a bunch of money that, especially in the interactive/digital space, Disney has been unable to turn into viable businesses.

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