Disney’s $500m acquisition of Maker Studios is just one drop in what is set to become a wave of investment as major media companies target vast online audiences, Stream Market conference attendees heard (June 3).

“We generate over six billion video views a month,” said Maker Studios chief development officer Chris Williams on a panel about MCNs (multi-channel networks that produce content on YouTube) in Santa Monica. “These creators have created massive audiences in a way that traditional media companies don’t have.

“It’s important for these large companies that have incredible IP to get new bites of the apple across new platforms.”

Williams added that The Walt Disney Co chairman Bob Iger personally drove the acquisition of Maker Studios after executives scrutinised the MCN for over 18 months to understand potential benefits in an unfamiliar sector.

George Lucas is understood to be exploring short-form content for the Star Wars property and Disney top brass are investigating ways to exploit brands like Frozen and the Marvel stable to Maker Studios’ consumer base.

For Maker Studios, which overtook Machinima in 2012 as the top indepednent YouTube network and whose channels include The Mom’s View and Bad Lip Reading, the deal brings Disney’s financing, production and merchandising clout, development opportunities for its content creators and an enhanced portfolio of content for its audience.

“No media company buys into this business because they know about the business and want to change it,” said Sean Atkins, general manager and svp of digital networks and commerce at Discovery Digital Media. “They know [very little] about it and want to learn more.”

The fluid channels between creators and consumers is the name of the game. “Media traditionally has been ‘I have a message and I’m going to talk at you,’” said Brett Bouttier, COO of Awesomeness TV, itself the subject of a $33m acquisition by DreamWorks Animation last year.

“What we’re doing is setting up a two-way street… and making those consumers part of that process.”

Bouttier went on to say, “DreamWorks have not only given us a runway to do what we do but a gentle boost to do more of it.”