Disney, MSG shore up content with key acquisitions

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) went through with its rumored acquisition of Maker Studios, a multichannel network, in a $500 million deal that may climb as high as $950 million after "certain performance targets" are met.

It wasn't the only content-rich deal made this week: On Saturday, Madison Square Garden Co. bought a 50 percent stake in Tribeca Enterprises, the film company co-founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. The deal is valued at $45 million. Rosenthal will remain CEO of Tribeca, while MSG executive chairman James L. Dolan--also chief executive of Cablevision (NYSE: CVC)--will sit on the board.

Both deals give Disney and MSG, separately, access to more content, highlighting a trend in which programmers and online video providers are seeking to own at least a portion of the content they're streaming to viewers. Vimeo recently announced a $10 million fund meant to entice independent filmmakers to make their content exclusive to the subscription-based video service for 30 days.

The deals also mean stepping into new market segments. For MSG, it likely means access to films shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, which this year begins on April 16 in New York City. This year 89 feature films and 58 shorts will be screened at the festival.

Disney now owns a key piece of the MCN segment, a market that has flourished on YouTube's channel system. Maker Studios owns or manages approximately 50,000 YouTube channels and has some 380 million subscribers. Its popular online shows include Polaris' "PewDiePie," fashion showcase "The Get Up," Maker Music, and family-friendly programming like cartoons and mom-oriented shows.

Maker Studios' purchase got a positive reception from at least one other multichannel network provider. Shahrzad Rafati, CEO of BroadbandTV--which owns VISO, the third-largest MCN on YouTube--called it "great news for the online video industry" in that it validates MCNs as a viable segment of the online video market.

"These investments show that traditional media and content companies now understand the importance of the MCNs as it relates to new methods of content consumption and monetization," Rafati said in a statement to FierceOnlineVideo.

For more:
- the New York Times has this story
- see the Disney-Maker Studios release
- HuffPost has this story

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