Walt Disney Co. is laying off about 80 employees in its digital media unit that includes Maker Studios, according to a person at the company not authorized to comment publicly.
The layoffs affect people in various roles at Maker, the Culver City-based digital studio, including some in support positions. The staff reductions follow the December integration of Maker into Disney’s consumer products and interactive media unit, a move that created staffing redundancies.
Burbank-based Disney bought Maker in 2014, spending more than $500 million to acquire the company behind YouTube successes such as "Epic Rap Battles of History" and creators such as the Swedish comic personality PewDiePie.
In addition to the layoffs, Maker also is undertaking a significant streamlining of its network of creators, whose content the company helps produce and promote in exchange for a cut of advertising revenue.
Maker currently has relationships with about 60,000 creators, but in the coming days the company will sever ties with all but 1,000 or so of those people, according to the person at Disney.
Maker’s aim is to retain relationships with creators whose content aligns with the Disney brand. The recalibration comes in the aftermath of the company’s loss of key employees and an ongoing effort to find synergies within the wider Disney ecosystem.
The layoffs and the streamlining of the creators network were being planned before last week’s controversy related to PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg.
On Feb. 14, Maker severed ties with Kjellberg after a Wall Street Journal story detailed several videos made by the creator that included anti-Semitic references. YouTube, which aired Kjellberg’s reality show, “Scare PewDiePie,” also has cancelled the second season of that program.
Kjellberg has nearly 54 million subscribers to his PewDiePew channel, more than any other individual.