Maker Studios Launches New Initiative to Fund Creator Content

sophia grace - H 2016
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sophia grace - H 2016

Sophia Grace and Rahat Hossain are among the creators tapped for Maker Studios Spark.

Maker Studios has started funding projects from online influencers through a new program called Maker Studios Spark. 

The Disney-owned YouTube network has agreed to produce more than 30 projects from creators including Ellen regular Sophia Grace, prankster Rahat Hossain (aka Magic of Rahat) and video gamer Chris Pirillo. In addition, Spark has given support to more than 100 concepts that creators will develop on their own.

The first such project to launch from the program is Intro To ... from The Holderness Family, which debuted during the Iowa caucus to shed light on the prominent players in the 2016 presidential election. 

According to a source familiar with the initiative, Maker began pitching Spark to creators last summer with an offer of up to $100,000 to produce a video or series based on creators' ideas. A Maker spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific financials of its deals with creators.  

The program is being billed as a talent and programming incubator that is focused on developing concepts that could then turn into larger series or franchises for online or traditional distribution. "The heart and soul of this program is our creators," said Gabriel Lewis, executive vp development and studios at Maker Studios. "It's an innovative way for them to leverage the resources of Maker to create original franchises for their existing audiences while taking some new and exciting risks. The program allows for digital video execution at scale without sacrificing each creator’s individual voice. We’re excited for everyone to see what we’ve been working on."

Spark invited creators from the Maker network to pitch ideas for original series and then selected its inaugural class based on creative drive and abilities, audience engagement and potential to expand beyond native platforms and formats. The program was also expanded to the 60,000 talent in the Maker network through the Maker Offers platform, which brands use to tap creators for campaigns.

The initiative is part of a wave of funding that has flooded the online video ecosystem. YouTube has started financing projects from creators to bulk up exclusive content on its Red subscription service; Verizon's Go90 has dolled out deals for originals for its mobile app; and New Form Digital incubated a series of shorts in 2014 with an eye toward developing them into full-fledged series. 

Maker plans to fete its class of Spark creators and their projects with an event on Monday, Feb. 29, in Culver City.