Maker Studios is gearing up for some major cutbacks in personnel as Disney looks streamline its digital-video division to operate more efficiently — and produce bigger, more bankable digital stars, Variety has confirmed.
Reps for Maker and Disney did not respond to requests for comment.
It’s not clear how sizable the layoffs will be, but according to an industry source familiar with Maker one of the key factors is that it is now integrated into the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI) group, which is overseen by Jimmy Pitaro. “They don’t have a need for the entire team,” the source said. Maker is “not a self-contained unit anymore.”
Sources said the layoffs are separate from Maker’s decision earlier this week to sever ties with PewDiePie — the biggest YouTube creator on the platform and Maker’s single largest talent — over his prank videos involving anti-Semitic rhetoric. That said, Maker has employed a team dedicated solely to PewDiePie, as well as managing the Revelmode gaming and content joint venture with him.
The Maker cutbacks also come after a complete change-out of its senior executive ranks. In December, Disney put Maker Studios under the leadership of Andrew Sugerman, executive VP of DCPI’s Content & Media area. Courtney Holt, who had previously been running Maker (after former CEO Ynon Kreiz left in December 2015), has moved into a role at Disney corporate as executive VP of media and strategy reporting to Kevin Mayer, senior EVP and chief strategy officer.
Maker — which has touted its network as once encompassing some 60,000 individual creators — will be focusing its efforts around the most popular talent. Top creators in the Maker network include Bratayley, CaptainSparklez, Cartoonium, Epic Rap Battles of History, EvanTubeHD, Game Grumps, HobbyKidsTV, Shay Carl, Strawburry17, the Gregory Brothers and Timothy DeLaGhetto.
For Disney, an objective is to boost the intellectual property that Maker Studios generates and to take content and talent across multiple platforms. Since the deal closed, “Maker and Disney haven’t been able to produce a breakout digital star,” said a source.
Disney bought Culver City, Calif.-based Maker Studios in 2014, ultimately paying $675 million (less than the $950 million maximum potential price tag). Last summer, Maker laid off about 30 employees in what it called a “strategic adjustment” of resources.