YouTube-oriented online video aggregators such as Maker Studios and Tastemade, known as multichannel networks or MCNs, are expanding their horizons in a bid to create enduring franchises and revenue models, a move that is bringing them into closer contact with broadcasters and pay-TV platforms pursuing the same goal.
“Short-form as a category is here to stay, and will become a very large and material part of the entertainment industry,” declared Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Disney-owned Maker Studios, speaking at APOS 2015.
Maker, which has signed up around 55,000 creators from more than 100 countries, has inked deals with two pay-TV platforms: one with Dish TV in the US, to contribute a linear channel curated from Maker content for Sling TV, Dish’s upcoming pay-TV lite service; and another in France to add a selection of Maker videos across multiple genres for Canal+’s SVOD platform, CanalPlay.
More recently, Disney's multi-year content and marketing tie-up with Philippines' telco Globe, announced earlier this month, included an OTT subscription service Maker On Demand.
Expect more partnerships around the world, often facilitated by Disney, where Maker provides programming blocks for free-to-air channels as well as services to pay-TV platforms and telcos.
Kreiz sees “significant opportunities” in Asia. The region accounts for just under 20% of Maker’s global pageviews at present.
“We know the space very well, and expect to become more active locally,” he said. “In most cases, it will be in partnership with local players; pay-TV and free-to-air.”
Maker is also reaching out to viewers directly, although a 12-month-old site, Maker.tv which offers viewers original content from some of its biggest stars, has struggled to gain traction. Apps also built to reach consumers are faring better, Kreiz said.
At the same time, Maker is starting to leverage resources from its new owner, with Maker stars starting to appear on Disney channels in the US and internationally.
Disney, which bought the MCN in March last year, has done little to exploit Maker’s network in turn, but that will come, Kreiz said.
Maker offers the entertainment giant an additional marketing and distribution platform geared to younger audiences, as well as a wellspring of content.
“We haven’t turned on the Disney content machine on YouTube, but a lot of other things have happened,” Kreiz said.
“The long-term vision is to extend Disney’s business into short-form, and open up a whole new business model for the company.”
TASTEMADE BRANCHES OUT
Specialist food and travel MCN Tastemade, meanwhile, is also rubbing shoulders with traditional TV players on various off-YouTube platforms, recently launching linear and on-demand services for Apple TV while joining Facebook’s new branded content program, Anthology, alongside the likes of Vice and Vox Media.
Most of Tastemade's revenues come from advertising and sponsorship but company executives are also keen to ramp up licensing deals, as more traditional players launch on-demand services, and large online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seek out more premium content.
“We want to build Tastemade as a consumer brand, much like some of the great channels that have been built over the last 20 years have done,” said the MCN’s co-founder and CEO Larry Fitzgibbon, speaking on a separate session at APOS.
Over the course of a year, Tastemade has leveraged the talent base from its networks, in front of and behind the camera, to create popular localized channels on Facebook and YouTube in Brazil. Fitzgibbon wants to replicate the initiative around the world.
Japan could be next, where Tastemade supplies local channel Foodies TV with some content, as well as talent for a bespoke show.
“We have already executed in places like Brazil,” Fitzgibbon said. “Japan is probably the next market for us.”
The long-standing relationships that MCNs have with local talent are key assets, as both traditional and digital media companies assemble new digital services, noted Gordon Rubenstein, managing partner of VC platform Raine Ventures, a Tastemade investor.
“Some of these folks would be signed by traditional media in a few years, but what we’ve done is build a relationship, a community and a brand,” Rubenstein said, speaking on the same panel.
“We’re taking that and packaging that, and bringing it to our joint venture partner in these regions. Together we can build it. It’s an opportunity just like you do in sports to develop talent.”
In addition to Raine and another VC firm Redpoint Ventures, Tastemade has also received funding from three media strategics: Comcast Ventures, Liberty Media and Scripps Networks Interactive, the latter leading the video network’s latest funding round, supported by Liberty.
Such relationships can provide a useful mix of assets and experience, as the lines between the linear and on-demand worlds start to blur.
“They come as financial investors primarily, but we have good relationships with our partners and are working on different things with each of them,” Fitzgibbon said.
“I foresee commercial relationships will start to be born, but they aren’t tied to the investment.”