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Maker Studios Gets Its First Report Card From Disney

Disney will pay Maker Studios backers an earn-out bonus of $105 million. Maker could have made $200 million.

Screenshot from Maker Studios' "Ithamar Has Nothing to Say"
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

When Disney bought Web video network Maker Studios last year, it paid $500 million up front and said it might pay up to $450 million more if Maker hit certain goals.

Now we know that’s not going to happen.

After months of wrangling, Disney and Maker have reached an agreement on the results of the first of two earn-out periods. Disney will pay Maker backers $105 million, out of a potential earn-out goal of $200 million, for Maker’s performance through the end of 2014. That brings Disney’s total payout for Maker to $600 million so far. (Thanks to Sarah Ullman, a former Maker employee who writes about Web video at The Jungle, for the tip.)

Maker shareholders have the chance to earn up to $250 million more if the video unit hits certain goals in 2015. But as I reported earlier this month, things have gotten bumpy for Disney and Maker, and there’s not a lot of optimism that Maker will get its $250 million; another 50 percent payment might be more realistic.

Another sign of potential problems with the Disney/Maker deal: Yesterday Erin McPherson, Maker’s chief content officer, left “per mutual agreement with the company.” Maker marketing head Jeremy Welt is also out.

Here’s a more upbeat note: Maker has spent some of its Disney money on a new Web series produced by Key and Peele’s excellent Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, featuring a cameo from both men as producers very interested in “anything at all that would sell to the 18-to-34 demographic.” Here’s an episode of “Ithamar Has Nothing to Say”:

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