When Maker Studios was acquired by Disney earlier this year for the whopping sum of $500 million, it was largely on the strength of that network’s huge roster of popular content creators, and when it comes to Maker’s stable of creators no one is bigger the PewDiePie. Felix Kjellberg runs the most popular channel not just at Maker but on all of YouTube. With over 31 million subscribers to his name he’s the biggest game in town, so the news that he’s considering leaving the Disney-owned MCN is making major waves.
In an interview with the Swedish magazine ICON the YouTube superstar revealed that he’s not especially interested in renewing with Maker Studios when his contract expires in December. He has no specific complaints with Maker, or with parent company Disney. However, when asked how things had changed since Disney officially assumed control at Maker he told an interviewer, “The fact that Disney bought Maker Studios doesn’t really change anything for me. If I ask for help, they reply, but that’s all the contact we have. We’ll see what happens.”
This isn’t the first time that PewDiePie has contemplated breaking up with a network. He left his original home, gamer-focused MCN Machinima, over claims of mismanagement and neglect. Back then lawyers were needed to extricate Kjellberg from a lifetime contract. A split with Maker would be considerably gentler since his current contract expires before the end of 2014.
Though he wasn’t especially forthcoming in the interview PewDiePie hinted that rather than join a new network he might be more satisfied launching his own where he could do the things that he feels his previous networks haven’t done. In his own words, “So far, all the networks have been managed in such an incredibly poor way, it’s embarrassing really. I’d like to help other YouTubers.” It’s certainly a viable option for the most subscribed man on YouTube. His massive fan base provides the clout needed to launch 1,000 YouTube careers, but this could all just be a bargaining tactic.
In YouTube, just like in mainstream Hollywood, stars have been known to play hardball with networks at contract time in order to get a sweeter deal. Making a few vague statements to the press could be a way for Felix to remind his network that he has other options before heading into contract negotiations. That said, Kjellberg has been making changes lately, like taking his popular BroKen Podcast off of YouTube and onto MLG.TV. When Disney acquired Maker PewDiePie was a big part of the deal, so it’s a safe bet that everyone at the Mouse’s new digital play house is taking this seriously.