Disney Reveals Digital Network Combining Maker Talent With Editorial Brands

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The new division has projects in the works based on the Star Wars and Mickey Mouse Club franchises.

A little over two months after Disney drastically pared down the creator network at Maker Studios amid plans to integrate it into its consumer products and interactive division, the entertainment giant is lifting the veil on what’s next for the digital company. 

Disney has revealed the newly created Disney Digital Network, which will combine the talent and brands at Maker with existing web properties. The network, announced Tuesday as part of Disney’s NewFront presentation in New York, brings together 300 social media channels that reach a combined audience of more than a billion. Disney has also revealed a programming slate of seven series that draw from several brands, including Star Wars and the Mickey Mouse Club.

“We’ve taken the past several months to take the best of what was inside Disney’s interactive media group and brought them all together to create what is now the Disney Digital Network,” Andrew Sugerman, who leads the group as executive vp, explained to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the reveal. “The goal of that network is to create high quality, digital-first stories and deliver those directly to millennials and gen Z audiences across all platforms and leverage the influencers that they know best.” 

The network will now be made up of several existing Disney editorial brands, including Oh My Disney, Disney Style, Disney Family and Babble, as well as Maker’s Polaris brand, which comprises several YouTube gaming influencers. The Star Wars website and app are now also part of the network. The social channels that are a part of the network include accounts for Disney stories, characters like Mickey Mouse and brands like The Muppets

The creation of Disney Digital Network has been three years in the making. Disney acquired Maker Studios in 2014 for more than $500 million and at first planned to operate the multichannel network as a stand-alone company. But over the last several months the entertainment company has taken steps to integrate Maker into its larger interactive division. That integration began in full in December when Courtney Holt stepped down from running Maker to take a business development job with Disney. A few months later, Disney laid off about 80 people across its digital unit, significantly cut the site of Maker’s creator network and folded the digital brand into the company. 

In the midst of the integration, Disney cut ties with top Maker star PewDiePie over a series of anti-Semitic jokes. 

During the presentation, Disney executives stressed that the company's programming is trustworthy and safe for brands to advertise against. It's for that reason that the company has cut down the size of the Maker network. "Who you trust your brands with is more important than ever," Sugerman told the audience. "The value of our network was not in the quantity of our creators, but on the quality of the content they create."

Going forward, Disney will look for ways to integrate Maker talent into existing shows and brands, according to Sugerman. "Early out of the gate, we changed the way we were looking at programming to be much more connected with these individuals and their audiences, like casting a Maker influencer as host of our Oh My Disney show," he added. 

The company's slate of shows includes Science and Star Wars, an episodic series that explores the parallels between science fantasy and the beloved space-set franchise; Club Mickey Mouse, a digital-first variety series that celebrates the original show through a new, diverse cast of young creators; and animated action-comedy COIN, which will stream on Polaris. Disney Digital Networks is also launching a competition for one up-and-coming illustrator to land a contract with Marvel.

Here is the full slate: 

Science and Star Wars: An episodic series that explores, explains, and demonstrates the parallels between the science fantasy of Star Wars and the real-world scientific breakthroughs the saga has inspired. Join show host Anthony Carboni and his rotating roster of IBM Researchers, scientific experts, guest stars and Watson, to explore and experiment with technology that isn't so far, far away anymore. Presented by IBM; Facebook exclusive through Facebook Anthology.

Oh My Disney Show, Season 2: Comedy, news, trends, and sketches combine in this always-on show built for every Disney fan’s feed.

Club Mickey Mouse: This is a digital-first variety show that celebrates the original show of yesteryear but brings it into the present day with a diverse cast of talented young creators, and, of course, everyone’s favorite mouse. Presented by HP Inc.; Facebook exclusive through Facebook Anthology.

Disney IRLOh My Disney brings iconic animated Disney characters and moments to real life, surprising people on location and our viewers at home.

COINThis is an animated action-comedy on Polaris with a distinct, game-inspired aesthetic that follows a team of misfits tasked to save their world. Brought together by time traveling robot Crohnobot, Donovan (a gruff plumber quick to anger), Kid Victory (a master of weaponry) and the Sisters Vicious (twin masters of illusion who hate each other) must defeat super-villain Gamovah and retrieve the coin of Chorder before it’s too late.

Disney Design Challenge: The best and brightest young designers are invited to push the boundaries of their art form to create beautiful, innovative and memorable works inspired by Disney films. In the first season, we challenge students in the fashion design program at Otis College of Art and Design to create an eight-look clothing line inspired by Disney’s Frozen.

Disney Magical Starts: This show is for the parents who want to spend more time creating experiences with their kids, but don’t know where to start. Our host parents and their kids help you tackle every day, and every new season, from holidays to back-to-school, with meal ideas, activities, crafts, tips and more. And with a little help from our beloved Disney characters, family time is even more magical.