Maker Studios, the digital media company that Disney is buying for up to $950 million, unveiled a slate of original programming and took the wraps off Maker.tv — a consumer destination for monetizing video off YouTube.
At its first Digital Content NewFronts event Tuesday evening in New York, Maker showed off existing and new content across 23 vertical network categories for a crowd of ad execs and partners. That included the premiere of the next season of its “Epic Rap Battles of History” franchise and a new branded-content series from documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.
As part of Disney, Maker will work with all of the Mouse House’s brands, said Maker exec chairman Ynon Kreiz, including Lucasiflm, Pixar, Marvel, ESPN, ABC and Disney itself. The combined Internet reach of Disney and Maker Studios will be behind only Google and Facebook, he said.
“Our mission is to empower creators and inspire expression,” Kreiz said at the NewFronts preso.
Added Maker chief content officer Erin McPherson: “We will access the Disney library to create all forms of new shortform content.”
McPherson, who joined Maker last fall from Yahoo, said she’s often asked what the MCN’s “House of Cards” will be. The company already has a tentpole in “Epic Rap Battles,” she said — a series that has generated 1.5 billion views to date, with an average of 30 million views per episode. “Those are numbers that would make broadcasters salivate,” McPherson said, as she introduced the “ERB” clip featuring ex-cop Rick Grimes from “The Walking Dead” vs. Walter White from “Breaking Bad.”
In addition, Maker announced a new programming model, Labs@Maker. Under that program, creators and brands will be able to co-create content with Maker, working with the MCN’s creative team and talent partners. This new model also provides data and insight tools for partners to receive real-time feedback with a comprehensive understanding on audience behavior and reactions.
Initial Labs@Maker partners include James Franco and partner Vince Jolivette’s Rabbit Bandini Prods.; Robert Kirkman’s Skybound, publisher of the comic that “The Walking Dead” is based on; X Games champion professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston; and musician and entrepreneur will.i.am, whose deal with Maker was announced earlier this year.
Maker also announced an agreement with ad-agency Omnicom Media Group, which has committed to a certain level of upfront ad spending on Maker properties. The MCN touted a new ad product, Maker Offers, which lets marketers tap directly into its network of 50,000 content creators for brand integration.
New series highlighted by Maker include:
“Ithamar Has Nothing to Say”: As previously announced, six-episode shortform comedy series follows a traveler exploring the U.S. for the first time, without speaking a single word. Series stars Ithamar Enriquez (“The Office”) and is produced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele,” Principato-Young Entertainment, Enriquez, and Frank Caeti.
“smartish”: Channel from Morgan Spurlock that is aimed at brands looking to produce content that will exclusively be curated by “smartish” talent across platforms. Show offerings include: “Consider the Source,” which will highlight economic, environmental and the often mysterious journeys familiar products take to get from factories and fields into our very own hands; and “How to Win at Life,” based on Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” to take a look at the science and hidden psychology behind everyday choices that may just be ruining your life.
“Over the Top”: Scripted series starring musician, actor and digital star Chester See as a struggling artist trying to make a name for himself in the L.A. music scene.
“ShayLife”: YouTube star Shay “ShayCarl” Butler, a longtime Maker talent, hosts docuseries that that gives everyday people a rejuvenated lease on life.
“Stampy School”: Online gamer Joseph Garrett (a.k.a. Stampylonghead) uses the popular Minecraft game for a new take on educational programming.
“Cri-Chic-Ing”: Style maven P’Trique and her friends dole out fashion feedback to unsuspecting pedestrians during Fashion Week.
“Oh, You Pretty Things!”: 10-episode series produced in partnership with Nylon TV, starring Francesca Eastwood and Alexander Nifong (“Pretty Little Liars”) about a group of 20-something trendsetters looking for their big break in the underground music and fashion scene in the Eastside of Los Angeles. All episodes of the series are set to premiere on Maker.tv and its YouTube fashion and beauty channel The Platform on May 19.
Maker’s NewFronts event was held at the Liberty Theater in Manhattan’s Times Square. The presentation featured appearances by talent include Spurlock, ShayCarl, Joseph Garrett, Nyjah Huston and Miss Piggy.
The event included live performances by will.i.am (featuring up-and-comer Cody Wise) and country-folk recording group The Gregory Brothers (who did a terrific cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball”).