Maker Studios Planning to Own More Content

New CEO wants to foster more original series, build better ad tech

Last week, Ynon Kreiz replaced Maker co-founder Danny Zappin as CEO of the YouTube production/media startup. Kreiz has a long track record in the TV space, having served as chairman and CEO of the global production company Endemol (Deal or No Deal, Big Brother). Kreiz served as Maker’s chairman since last year.

Maker Studio is a hot company at the moment in the even hotter Web video space. But it’s not without its own drama and challenges. It had a very public breakup with YouTuber Ray William Johnson. It’s received funding from Time Warner Ventures. It’s also morphed its mission slightly while the space it plays in—YouTube MCNs (multi channel networks)—has come under scrutiny. And since Kreiz came on board, there have been a handful of layoffs.

Kreiz took time out to talk with Adweek to discuss his plans for the company, based in the burgeoning Silicon Beach section of Los Angeles.

Adweek: I’ve heard Maker describe itself as a studio out of the old Hollywood era. And more recently the company has talked about its role as a programmer that coaches talent on how to use YouTube, as well as just a video ad network. So what is Maker?
Kreiz: Maker at the core is a content platform. There are different ways to think about the MCNs on YouTube. Some are services, some are ad networks. This is a content-led company, with content in its DNA. We’re about production, understanding content flow. This is really a next generation media company … orienting towards connecting viewers and advertisers.

What are your plans as the new CEO?
There are a few key components to what we are investing in right now. We want to accelerate our investment in programming. There are going to be more channels under the Maker banner. That’s a key part of what we want do. We’re not reinventing ourselves. Another dimension is that we intend to build and develop and a full-fledged commercial infrastructure. We’re working with content producers, brands and agencies to build media products.

So, more original Maker-owned content?
We worship talent. And talent is crucial, in TV, film, media, any treatment. We tried to work with as many of the best as we can and try to give them the best platform. And we're also looking to build our own talent. It's not too dissimilar to the studio model, where you see a combination of multiple approaches. We intend to expand in more genres, more themed brands. Some of this could be scripted.

Regarding your commercial infrastructure plans, one challenge in this space is that it’s hard to make money as just a video ad network because pricing can be low. But brand integrations are tough to scale.
We’re not an ad network. We don’t see ourselves that way. We have a lot of scale and content. We’re working on packaging and positioning our content and making it more palatable for the ad ecosystem. That has to work at scale in a more focused way. Some of it is through brand integration.

What does that mean exactly? You want to automate branding somehow?
We’re now investing pretty heavily in tech tools, things that can help us optimize or support talent and help advertisers reach [their] target audience. We want to create … tools that will [offer] reliable data, the ability to optimize the way we commercialize our content. I don’t want to say too much but we have new products coming that complement what YouTube is doing.

What’s your take on the industry’s attempt to take on TV with the NewFronts?
The industry is young. It’s developing and broadening. the advantages of online video distribution will outweigh the challenges. The holy grail is reaching individuals with the right messages and measuring it. TV is very inefficient. … Online video ability to reach individuals is much more accurate. It’s more engaging. The value is higher, and critically, you can measure with 100 percent accuracy. It will become much more efficient. It’s still early. There are inefficiencies. It will find its equilibrium.

How big do you guys want to get? There have been some layoffs, and you have some affiliates and some full timers.
We’re north of 300 and it’s a good size. We move very fast. We’re in hyper-growth mode. We are hiring in some areas and reducing in other areas. 

You didn't have a NewFront, though your talent was featured. Do you want to become bigger in the eyes of Madison Avenue?
Yes we intend to become more active, collaborative. As a media company, we see the ad community as a commercial partner. We want to become more active and more involved and present with that community. Web video has become a mainstream product. It's not an alternative. It’s early. We’re at the margins. We're not going to destabilize it in a day. But it doesn't matter what you or I think. Look at the facts and how video is growing. Google will have 4,000 people out selling Web video but it will be driven by its own velocity, and it will be very fast.