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TheGrill: Maker Studios Chief – What Viacom Is to Cable We Are to Video (Video)

Ynon Kreiz: “In the early days of cable, those who understood how to program to the audience, niche channels, became the Viacoms, the Turners, the ESPNs”

When you’re looking for a model for growth in the burgeoning online industry, a lot can be gleaned from television. In fact, Maker Studios executive chairman Ynon Kreiz isn’t shy about comparing Maker to behemoths such as Viacom, which began as niche outlets.

“In the early days of cable, those who understood how to program to the audience, niche channels, became the Viacoms, the Turners, the ESPNs,” Kreiz said Tuesday at TheWrap’s Media Leadership Conference, TheGrill. “The way we sell ourselves is what those guys are to cable we are to video.”

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While some in the traditional media realm might scoff at the comparison, it’s hard to argue with the numbers. As Kreiz noted during the panel, “The Revolution in Online Video and the Rise of Maker,” his company — which offers online video content primarily through YouTube channels, targeted largely toward the millennial generation —  has grown from 400 monthly views in the company’s early days to 4 billion monthly views. It plans to hit 5 billion monthly views by the end of the month.

Jonathan Alcorn

Jonathan Alcorn

Maker’s model also has managed to rake in some cash; the company recently raised an additional $26 million, bringing its total fundraising haul to $70 million.

An impressive trajectory — but is there the fear of growing too quickly?

Kreiz — who previously worked at production company Endemol — acknowledged to TheWrap’s Lucas Shaw that rapid scaling is a potential risk but insisted that Maker is approaching things with a level head to minimize the growing pains.

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“We are very disciplined in the way we are managing our growth — in this particular case, it’s managing hyper-growth, because we are growing very fast,” Kreiz said. “We always think about how you manage this growth, and how you pace yourself looking at all these opportunities … we work to budgets, we work to plan, we work to forecast.”

“We’re constantly looking a the financial implications,” he said — but added, “sometimes you have to take a risk.”

As far as growing advertising revenue, Kreiz says that he’s been “positively surprised to see the way things have gone,” but he believes that advertising will grow as the advantages of online video over television — such as the better capacity for targeting, engaging and measuring audiences — become more apparent.

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“I think the advertising will be much larger, not just for us, but everybody involved, once blue-chip advertisers” begin to better understand online video, Kreiz said.

In the meantime, Maker will focus on its goal — finding the best talent possible and bringing it to the largest audience possible.

“It’s in our DNA,” Kreiz said. “We always say, ‘talent first.’ If you work with the best people in the industry, good things will happen.”