Ynon Kreiz talks with TheWrap about the company's plans to expand beyond YouTube
Maker Studios chair Ynon Kreiz has taken day-to-day control of the prominent YouTube network with a clear mandate – growth.
YouTube and prominent partners like Maker are still trying to convince advertisers to start spending serious cash on YouTube. Companies like Maker are also trying to grow revenue internally, adding the infrastructure needed to help capitalize on their audience.
The decision to give Kreiz the keys to the Maker car is the latest step in online video's maturation.
Kreiz, the former chief of reality TV giant Endemol, has been chairman for the past year, and takes over day-to-day control from co-founder Danny Zappin in the wake of a $36 million cash infusion from investors such as Time Warner.
TheWrap spoke with Kreiz about how the company will spend that cash and why its future rests both on and off YouTube.
Now that you are overseeing the company, what is the first thing you need to accomplish?
The space is humming as a whole and Maker is in a very strong position to continue the momentum it has built. We’re at over three billion views and will continue to build programming verticals, focus on technology and a strong infrastructure.
So what verticals will you expand into?
In its DNA, this is a quality-first company. It’s about the quality and value of its offering to people who watch videos. We built our scale as a company that is driven by content – content first and talent first. That is something we’re looking to maintain with more content and more original productions.
The most popular creators on YouTube have jumped from network to network, chasing whatever deal they like best. Maker has not been immune, seeing people like Ray William Johnson leave its network. How do you make sure you keep that talent?
It’s certainly competitive out there. We’ve shown and proven that we do things right in the way we manage relationships with talent. We make it worth their while to sign on with us and stay with us. It’s a core value of the company and believe that as long as we do that right we will maintain and strengthen that position as a platform for talent.
Did investors approach you about running the company or did Danny always plan on stepping aside?
It was a natural evolution. Without getting into boardroom mechanics, we have been working with the company for more than a year. Danny and I have a great relationship.
We’ve been told by an executive at Maker that you could generate $100 million in revenue this year. Will you be north or south of that?
I can’t comment on financials.
Some companies, like Alloy Digital and the Collective, have courted more revenue by distributing videos both on and off YouTube. Is Maker still singularly committed to putting its videos YouTube?
We see YouTube as our key partner in terms of distribution and one of our four main constituents between our talent, viewers, commercial partners, advertisers and YouTube as a platform. Alongside that we are exploring additional ways to expand our reach further.
I can’t elaborate right now. That’s one of things we could talk about in the future. YouTube is where all our traffic is being distributed but we are always looking for additional ways to reach more people.
Maker has a massive audience, but now that you’ve taken all this investment ($36 million last December), how can the company mature financially?
I can’t speak for all of the investors. I am an investor. The whole space of online video is one of the most exciting and happening parts of video now. Tech is obviously key and the engine that YouTube and Google are putting behind it.
A company like Maker is tied into a key part of the fuel that drives the entire industry, which is content. We are so connected to talent.
How much have you invested?
I can’t say that. If it was up to me, I would have said it. It’s confidential.
What are you doing with all this new money?
We’re investing a lot in content-related parts of company.
Is that production?
Production facilities, working with talent, supporting that part of the business. We’re also investing in our infrastructure — tools and capabilities we offer to our partners.
Production and talent are two things Maker is already known for. What’s your plan for the other side of the coin – business, ad sales, marketing and so on?
We’re looking to strengthen the commercial side and the infrastructure side of company to optimize our potential. We’re doing great with growth and viewership. We’re getting into acquisition now. We need to take our leading position and scale it commercially.
What does that mean?
Being able to continue to grow the business’ revenue and profits and everything under commercial — relationships, sales and so forth.
How big can the company grow?
We’re a big, successful, next generation media company that can have a substantial impact.
An executive with the company previously told us that the company is on a path to become a billion dollar company. Is that correct?
We’re not commenting on numbers.