Disney announced last week its plans to lay off 700 employees in its interactive division, a section of the Mouse House that has attempted to exploit Disney’s incredible library of intellectual property in the industries of video games, mobile games, and online video, but has so far scored far below expectations, reportedly losing upwards of $1 billion in the past several years.
“We are trying to consolidate things and focus largely on the mobile platform,” the president of Disney Interactive, Jimmy Pitaro, said in an interview with Reuters. But maybe a realignment to focus on mobile wasn’t the only reason Pitaro and other Disney executives cut roughly 25% of Disney Interactive’s staff. Maybe they’re cleaning house and freeing up some capital for a bolder shift in strategy.
Disney is pondering a $500 or more acquisition of Maker Studios according to a report from Recode. The YouTube multi-channel network now boasts more than 5.5 billion video views a month from viewers around the globe, consistently ranks towards the top of Comscore’s list of most-viewed multi-channel networks within the U.S., and is the most well-represented MCN among the Top 100 Most Viewed YouTube Channels and the Top 100 Fastest Growing YouTube Channels. As a bonus, Maker also has its very own video player (ever since its acquisition of Blip back in September 2013) and has started to build up online video destinations in a variety of verticals outside of the YouTube ecosystem.
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Maker Studios has a raised a significant amount of cash, too. Back in December 2012, Time Warner led a $36 million investment round, which was followed less than nine months later by another $26 million round led by Canal+ to help fund Maker’s overseas expansion. All in all, the total amount of cash raised by the new media entertainment company is somewhere in the ballpark of $66 million.
Representatives of Maker Studios and Disney haven’t revealed anything to the press so far, so the deal isn’t yet a definite. If it does go through, however, the deal would only be unprecedented in terms of its dollar amount.
It’s no surprise traditional media companies are trying to make sense of the online video industry by getting in financial relationships with the industry’s major players. Dreamworks, of course, acquired AwesomnessTV in May 2013 for as little as $33 million to as much as $117 million, depending on whether or not the MCN can hit certain metrics. Just yesterday, Machinima announced an $18 million financing round led by Warner Bros. And other prominent YouTube MCNs have also raised cash from traditional media players and established entertainment conglomerates. Fullscreen scored a $30 million round led by Comcast in April 2013, StyleHaul sported a $6 million round led by Bertelsmann in May 2013, and BroadbandTV closed a $36 million round led by RTL Group in June 2013.