Disney Folds Maker Studios Into Digital Division, Courtney Holt Steps Down (Exclusive) – Variety

Disney has moved Maker Studios to its consumer products and interactive media division, and its top executive is shifting to a new role within the company, Variety has learned.

Courtney Holt, head of Maker Studios, issued an internal memo in which he laid out the rationale for the shift.

“Merging Maker Studios with Content & Media allows DCPI to continue to expand audiences — across both physical and digital content,” he wrote. “And, by taking a broader digital content offering to market, we can truly differentiate ourselves to advertisers and distribution platforms.”

Holt is moving on to a new role at the company as EVP of media and strategy, reporting to Kevin Mayer, senior EVP and chief strategy officer at Disney. Prior to Maker, Holt has held senior roles at MySpace Music, News Corp., MTV Networks and Sony BMG.

Maker, which previously was a standalone unit, is now part of DCPI, which is led by Andrew Sugerman. Its placement within the company has long been an open question because it was previously placed under the oversight of Jay Rasulo, who stepped down from the CFO post in mid-2015. Then Maker’s senior-most executive, Ynon Kreiz, left the company right before 2016 began, and his No. 2, Holt, was upped.

“In the weeks to come, you’ll hear more about how the teams will come together around an integrated digital content strategy–both domestically and internationally. Andrew is a fantastic leader and I’m energized by his passion for the organization and what we do at Maker,” Holt wrote. “On a personal note, even though I remain a key supporter of Maker within Disney, stepping away from the day-to-day will be a change of pace. It’s been an unforgettable 5-year+ journey and I’m grateful for everyone’s continued dedication to the brand. Disney is truly the best media company in the world, and I’m excited to see what’s ahead in digital for the business.”

Maker Studios was acquired by Disney in 2014 Disney for $500 million in addition to a potential $450 million based on hitting certain goals. But the company, which started out as a vast affiliate network of amateur content creators operating on YouTube to the tune of billions of video views, has morphed over the years as digital monetization has gotten more challenging. Disney, which was widely criticized for the high price tag of the acquisition, saw Maker as a way of promoting its movie and TV franchises to younger audiences online. But while properties like “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” have been plugged heavily through Maker channels, the company has operated quietly under a cloud of uncertainty as to whether the acquisition was worth the price, particularly considering it was the first of many similar combinations of old and new media such as NBCUniversal’s investments in Buzzfeed and Vox Media.

“Maker Studios will add to Content & Media’s capabilities around short-form content creation and distribution, making this a natural fit,” Holt wrote in his memo. “Also, many of our teams have already integrated with DCPI across sales, finance, communications, marketing, legal, technology, and HR, so it makes sense to pull together the distribution, franchise, network and studio teams in one segment. As a reminder, the Content & Media organization is focused on digital publishing of original short-form and micro-content across various digital brands and social channels, along with physical publishing through Disney Book Group and licensed book titles.”

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