The YouTube ecosystem has never been healthier, with more high quality content being produced and larger audiences tuning in that ever before. At the same time, there’s a class warfare developing. On one end of the spectrum are the peons who, with limited production and distribution resources, submit their content into the ether and hope that someone, somewhere notices. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the massive YouTube networks that are developing into the digital equivalent of Hollywood studios, managing talent, production resources, and distribution all in exchange for a healthy piece of the pie.
Maker Studios, the biggest of all players in this space at more than 2 billion views per month, with over 5,000 channels, and more than 140 million subscribers, just got even more formidable. Today the company announced $36 million of new financing in what it described as the “initial closing” of its Series C round.
The latest equity financing, which brings the company’s total to date to $44 million (excluding YouTube content production grants), was led by Time Warner Investments with participation from existing investors Greycroft Partners, GRP Partners, Robert Downey Jr.’s Downey Ventures, Elisabeth Murdoch, Jon MIller and Jimmy Yaffe’s FUEL: M+C, and Maker Chairman Ynon Kreiz, as well as new investors Daher Capital and Academy Award-winning producer Jon Landau. Time Warner’s Rachel Lam will join the company’s board.
“We founded Maker because, as YouTube content creators ourselves, we recognized there was a need for a new type of studio and network that could support artists on any platform,” Maker co-founder and CEO Danny Zappin says.
Maker manages a number of bonafide YouTube stars and hit content series including KassemG, Nice Peter’s “Epic Rap Battles of History,” the Shaytards, SnoopDogg’s WestFestTV, The Yogscast, The Gregory Brothers, Bad Lip Reading, and Mike Tompkins, among others. Time Warner’s Lam points out that her company’s investment in Maker gives provides new and old media crossover opportunities, saying “[the investment] gives us insight into next generation video content and the ever evolving online video landscape, as well as access to new producers of content for Time Warner’s existing television, film and cable network operations.”
Noticeably absent from above PR-friendly talent roster is recently disgruntled star Ray William Johnson, who appears to be parting ways with the company after a very public and very nasty contract dispute. RWJ was (is?) arguably Maker’s biggest star and the dispute sheds light the not-so-pretty reality that although Maker is a next-generation, technology-enabled business, it’s still a talent agency and production company, and subject to all the politics and sleaze that has been associated with old Hollywood forever. Expect to see more of this TMZ-fodder in the future, not less.
That said, the new funding will allow Maker to cement its position at the top of the industry by offering more stars more services, including development, production, promotion, distribution, sales and marketing. The company which was founded in 2009 operates out of a 40,000 square foot Culver City campus comprised of sound stages, production offices, prop and wardrobe areas, editing bays, recording booths, and the like. Maker has expanded recently into new verticals and geographic market, and now covers comedy, music, gaming, beauty & fashion, and mom’s programming both domestically and internationally with a weight toward Europe.