Will.i.am to Launch Video Platform With Maker Studios (Exclusive)

Will.i.am Deals - P 2014
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Will.i.am Deals - P 2014

The Black Eyed Peas frontman joins Snoop Dogg in developing original video content as the multichannel network expands its star roster.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

One of the top digital media firms is adding a major pop star to its roster.

Maker Studios, which boasts more than 4.2 billion monthly video views and consistently ranks among comScore's list of top five YouTube partners, has teamed with will.i.am to launch an online video platform with original content drawn from the Black Eyed Peas frontman's interests.

"Will is best-known for being a musician, but he has so many other passions," says Maker COO Courtney Holt. "[The content] is going to be very creative."

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In addition to original content, the platform will feature behind-the-scenes videos and collaborations with other artists.

The videos will stream on will.i.am's YouTube channel, which will have e-commerce, interactive and mobile components. Holt says Maker will also explore additional distribution platforms for the content.

Like it does with many of its artists, Maker will use its Maker Direct strategy to promote the content on social media platforms such as will.i.am's Twitter and Facebook.

As part of the deal, Maker will also produce and manage programming for musicians affiliated with will.i.am, including 8-year-old YouTube rap star Baby Kaely, teen recording artist Cody Wise and The Voice U.K. runner-up Leah McFall.

Will.i.am said he looks forward to exploring digital content creation with Maker.

"In an era of disruption that has democratized everything imaginable, there are areas that are exciting for creators and content makers including videos, music videos, documentaries, short films and long-form films," he said. "I love the idea of bringing order and being systematic and strategic on YouTube."

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The partnership with the musician is part of Culver City-based Maker's strategy to build its roster of entertainment clients in addition to helping manage the YouTube channels for online personalities such as Mike Tompkins, The Gregory Brothers and PewDiePie.

The studio has worked with Snoop Dogg, for example, to develop content for his YouTube channel WestFestTV.

Other recent development deals include a partnership with Friends duo Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen for comedy series Robin Banks and the Bank Roberts, and a collaboration with Ben Stiller's Red Hour for the second season of comedy Next Time on Lonny.

A noted technology enthusiast, will.i.am famously appeared in a 2008 CNN interview via hologram and launched a camera accessory for iPhones in 2012 through gadget line i.am+. He now serves as director of creative innovation for Intel.

Says Holt of the partnership, "Will has some big, bold ideas, and we all got really excited about them."