Maker Studios is scaling back, paring down the number of channels in its large network of creators to just a few hundred of the most popular talents and channels. The multichannel network was purchased by Disney in 2014 for $675 million but has struggled to make it profitable. Variety reports that the move is an effort to optimize Maker Studios’ efforts to “produce bigger, more bankable digital stars.”
The news comes on the heels of Disney’s decision to drop popular YouTuber PewDiePie after he made a series of anti-semitic “jokes”.
There’s no word yet on just how much Maker Studios is scaling back, but it’s set to be substantial, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, Maker will be whittling its network down to just 300 creators. It was, at one time, a network of somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 creators and around 55,000 channels.
It’s not just cutting its roster of creatives, either. The leadership of Maker Studios has also undergone some significant changes recently. Now a part of the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI) group, Maker Studios is now led by Andrew Sugerman, who is executive VP of Content & Media at DCPI. What’s more, these are the only layoffs — last summer, Maker laid off 30 of its employees.
So what’s next for Maker in light of these changes?
Sources told Variety that, “Maker and Disney haven’t been able to produce a breakout digital star,” in the time since Disney bought Maker nearly three years ago. It stands to reason that perhaps it’s struggling to find a way to effectively monetize a network that spans thousands of creators.
It’s worth noting that when Disney purchased Maker in 2014, it wasn’t folded into any of Disney’s other divisions. The decision to make Maker a part of DCPI was relatively recent, and seems to have been the catalyst for many of these changes. Theoretically, the bigger network, the bigger the team needed to maintain that network. If the creatives currently on the network aren’t bringing in enough revenue to cover the cost of the team that facilitates and maintains Maker Studios, Disney’s going to be looking to make adjustments.
Disney’s clear intention of a developing a “breakout digital star” is also significant. PewDiePie was a big name, and one that was undeniably a “star” in his own right. But, as Variety points out, when Disney bought Maker Studios, that purchase came with “an objective is to boost the intellectual property that Maker Studios generates and to take content and talent across multiple platforms.”
Maker Studios seems to be looking to not only act as a hub of influencers and talent, but to develop content and talent that will come to benefit Disney in a way that extends beyond YouTube. This speaks to a larger quandary facing influencers, who are always looking to leverage their reach as they move into new spaces, create new types of content, and reach new audiences.
It’s still too early to tell exactly how this move is going to pan out for Maker’s goal of producing a “breakout” star or for its bottom line, but this is a seismic shift for one of the most notable MCNs in the space, and we’ll be watching to see how this change reverberates across the YouTube, influencer, and MCN landscapes.