Maker Studios President Ynon Kreiz to Step Down

Ynon Kreiz - H 2015
Stuart Wilson/Getty Images for Viacom)

Maker executive Courtney Holt is being upped to executive vice president at the Disney-owned short-form video business.

Maker Studios president Ynon Kreiz is moving on from the digital media company nearly two years after he orchestrated its landmark sale to Disney.

Disney announced Tuesday morning that Kreiz will step down on Jan. 11. Maker chief strategy officer Courtney Holt, who joined the company in 2011 and served as COO for a number of years, is stepping into the role of executive vice president, reporting to Disney Interactive president Jimmy Pitaro

Kreiz, who invested in Maker before joining as non-executive chairman in May 2012, was appointed executive chairman and CEO in 2013 largely to prep the company, said to be unprofitable and burning millions in cash each month at the time, for a sale. Less than a year later, he rode a surge of interest in digital media businesses to a $500 million sale to Disney, the largest in the online video space, that could have ballooned to $950 million million if Maker had met certain performance targets. 

The dealmaker’s departure coincides with the completion of the earn out, which is said to have fallen below the the initial $450 million target despite Kreiz and Holt’s best efforts to bring in new business over the last 20 months.

“We are pleased that Courtney Holt has agreed to take on an expanded role leading Maker Studios as we continue to explore new ways to leverage Maker’s unique capabilities across The Walt Disney Company," said Pitaro. "We also want to thank Ynon Kreiz, who in just three short years helped Maker Studios become the global leader in short-form entertainment. We appreciate his leadership during this critical time."

Following the acquisition, Disney has turned Maker — which is best known for its roster of fresh-faced online talent, including top YouTuber PewDiePie and tot toy reviewer EvanTubeHD — into its hub for all short-form video. Although there were said to be tensions between the companies at the start over Maker’s access to Disney IP, Maker announced in October that it would release Marvel and Star Wars-themed series for Verizon’s go90 mobile app. 

The sale of Maker set off a flurry of acquisition activity in the YouTube network space. Fullscreen sold a majority stake to AT&T and The Chernin Group’s Otter Media, StyleHaul sold to RTL Group for $107 million, and Collective Digital Studio merged with ProSieben’s Studio71

The fate of Maker post-acquisition highlights the changing landscape for businesses built off YouTube. Maker began primarily as a multi-channel network of thousands of YouTube stars, offering them monetizaton tools and direct ad sales in exchange for a cut of advertising revenue from their channels. But today, many top creators — who have teams of agents and managers that resemble that of any young Hollywood starlet — are able to land lucrative brand deals outside of the MCNs. As a result, networks like Maker have focused their attention on digital production and shed the MCN title. 

The company grew significantly under Kreiz, jumping from 860 million views a month to 12 billion and expanding beyond YouTube to platforms such as go90 and Dish's SlingTV

A former music video director, Holt was previously president of Myspace Music. He also spent part of his career at Viacom's MTV Networks and Interscope Geffen A&M.