Maker Studios Unveils New Programming Strategy (Exclusive)

Executive chairman Ynon Kreiz addresses future of online video at Variety conference

Ynon Kreiz Maker Studios

Leading online programmer Maker Studios is restructuring its vast network of YouTube channels to more closely model the cable world, the company’s executive chairman revealed Monday at the Variety Entertainment & Tech Summit.

Most of the 55,000-plus channels will be organized into four main units aimed at getting more traction with both consumers and advertisers. Beginning in January, seven existing branded verticals will expand to at least 20 to encompass the over 100 short-form programs being greenlighted.

In addition, the company unveiled Maker Max, a new platform for its content creators, allowing them to better manage their videos.

Maker executive chairman Ynon Kreiz explained the reorg as a means of mimicking the evolution of major multichannel brands like MTV and ESPN. “Those who have figured out how to program to niches organize themselves in a way that aggregates audience around key demographics and interest groups,” he said.

However, Kreiz also stressed the difference between his digital platform and television. “We try to stay away from the comparison between what we do and television,” he said. “What we do is part of a new medium, the same way that television is different from theatrical films and video games is different from video.”

Maker isn’t the first multichannel network to restructure itself for easier consumption and marketer buy-in, but it’s certainly the biggest. There’s no more popular programmer on YouTube than Maker, which reaches over 330 million subscribers — 80% of which are in the 13-34 demographic – -with 4.1 billion views per month.

The four units will be devoted to men, women, family and entertainment programming. They will encompass existing verticals Animonster, FriendlyPaw, Maker Music, Polaris, The Mom’s View, Cartoonium and the Platform. Kreiz did not reveal what the new verticals would be, but said they would be revealed early next year. Top talent on Maker include PewDiePie, KassemG and the Shaytards.

“That will basically replicate the way people are used to consuming content on television, the way advertisers are used to reaching consumers and more importantly, the way consumers themselves are used to viewing content and interacting with what they like to watch,” he said.

According to Kreiz, the men category already has over one billion views monthly, while entertainment has attracted half a billion views. Each of the verticals will boast distinct content, including 100 originals programs, 80 percent of which will be created in-house.

The evolving programming strategy is a sign of continued maturation of Maker, which has amassed a gargantuan global audience by cross-promoting a mix of owned-and-operated channels with an even bigger network of affiliates. Maker has attracted more than $70 million across multiple rounds of funding, counting Time Warner among its investors.

Kreiz wants to ultimately expand to other distribution outlets, including Xbox and Roku, while still maintaining its partnership with primary distributor YouTube. Most recently, it acquiring the video network and distributor Blip.

“We see YouTube as our biggest and most important partner and that will probably remain for a very, very long time and there’s no but,” he said. “Our role is to reach people wherever they are. And because not everybody is on YouTube all the time, we’re looking to find them in other places.”

Kreiz said these platforms will coexist live side by side. Viewers will not be moved off YouTube onto their new platforms.

“I’m trying to use an analogy with TV, even though I said I’m not comparing it,” he said. “If you’re a media company that owns different outlets or has access to different outlets between network and cable channels, you can mobilize viewership between the various platforms.”

Maker’s top talent may include non-celebs PewDiePie, KassemG and the Shaytards, but Kreiz expects to book more “AAA talent.” It’s already signed Snoop Lion and his YouTube channel WestFestTV, Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Enterprises and Kevin Smith.