Ex-Maker Studios CEO Danny Zappin Raises $25M For New Company

by Sahil Patel

Danny Zappin, who co-founded and was later ousted as CEO of YouTube multi-channel giant Maker Studios, is back with a new company — and he’s apparently raised a lot of money to jumpstart it.

Called Zealot Networks, the company has the backing of Zappin along with more than 15 former and current Maker Studios employees, talent, and management team. Altogether, the group has invested $25 million into Zealot, which is described as a “digital-first media company and growth accelerator that empowers creative entrepreneurs and talent, delivering multi-platform revenue, distribution, and growth opportunities.”

If you were hoping for more details on what Zealot will actually be up to, the company and Zappin are pretty mum.

“With Zealot, I’m pursuing my greater vision of empowering creative individuals with a new focus on entrepreneurs, distribution, and emerging platforms,” said Zappin, who will serve as president and CEO, in a statement. “We’re operating in multiple passion-based verticals, building zealous audiences, and providing services for companies, brands, and talent across multiple platforms to help them realize their business visions and creative passions.”

The “war chest” (as the company calls it) is pretty sizeable, and will go toward supporting operations, acquisitions, and investments.

Maker Studios, which Zappin co-founded and had a sizeable stake in, recently sold to Disney in a deal worth up to $950 million. A few months earlier, Zappin and a few other former Maker executives tried to block the deal from going through, citing their ongoing legal battle with the company’s new executive team, which were accused of committing a breach of contract and fraud in ousting Zappin as CEO.

A California court rejected the motion, and the Maker shareholder vote and Disney deal went through — making Zappin richer for it.

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U.S. Home Entertainment Spending Drops Slightly

There seems to be a change coming when it comes to U.S. home entertainment spending, as more and more consumers seem to be leaning more towards streaming services, and less on general entertainment-oriented items.

A report from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group indicates that total consumer spending on home entertainment did rise an estimated 2 percent in the second quarter, but that wasn’t quite enough to make up for the entire 3.2 deficit from the first quarter of 2014.

Total home entertainment spending for the first half of this year came in with an estimated $8.58 billion, which is only down less than one percent from the $8.65 billion spent in the first half of 2013.

However, disc sales showed an impact, with spending on Blu-Ray and DVD mediums dropping down 8.2 percent to $3.26 billion, down from $3.56 billion from last year. Home Media Magazine, however, has a conflicting report, stating that the number of discs sold to consumers in the first six months of the year actually increased by more than two percent.

Meanwhile, digital distribution grew heavily, with digital HD products and electronic sell-through rising 37 percent in the first half of 2014, coming in with an estimated $671.4 million. That’s a huge increase from the $490.6 million reported in the first six months of 2013.

The entire digital sell-through category rose thanks to those numbers, to $3.93 billion, just down 2.8 percent from the $4.05 billion spent on home entertainment in 2013.

Blu-Ray discs are picking up a bit in general, with a 10 percent increase in sales for the second quarter alone, proving that physical media is far from dead. However, it’s hard to ignore the streaming numbers, especially Netflix’s.

The video-on-demand service helped increase subscription based services to $1.91 billion in the first half of 2014, compared to the $1.51 billion spent in the previous year.

We could very well see a new trendsetter in home media come this time next year, if not sooner.

Source: Variety

Gamers Can Make Music With ‘Sentris’

It’s not often you see a game that actually gives players inspiration to do something unique. Granted, taking on soldiers and racing in a fast car is inspiration enough, but we’re talking more about doing something “outside the box” with their own creativity. Developer Samantha Kalman is looking to change all that with her new game, Sentris.

The game, which looks like a circular variation of the classic Russian puzzle game Tetris, is a music-making puzzle game, one that manages to evoke emotion depending on what you do within the game, as you move around objects to help put together your own musical tunes – a far cry from the pre-programmed tunes you need to follow in such games as the Rock Band series and Lumines.

“It’s an experimental game,” said Kalman, speaking with Polygon. “The goal of it from the outset has been to be something that mixes and balances both a puzzle game that should be engaging while it’s muted, and a musical instrument as a vehicle for personal expression. My big goal is to get more people making music.”


Disney Launches ‘The Muppets’ Digital Series

Before they hit it big in movies, The Muppets were a popular staple in television, starting with the popular The Muppet Show in the 1970’s and eventually returning with Muppets Tonight several years later. Now, it appears that they’re heading back on the air – or rather, the Internet –  with an all-new digital series, Disney Drive-On With the Muppets.

The first episode, which made its debut on August 1st, can be viewed below, and focuses on Kermit the Frog and company interacting with celebrities on a Burbank studio lot. The show follows Pepe the King Prawn, who’s in charge of the Muppets’ office and decides to “mentor” Walter when it comes to the business of Hollywood. This means taking on small jobs, but eventually making his way through the ranks to becoming a superstar. (Maybe.)


The series will continue on for six installments, featuring new characters and celebrities every week. It’s an interesting mix of creativity and cross-marketing utility. Will you watch

Source: Variety