A new media startup will spend millions making movies with YouTubers, TikTok stars, and other digital creators
- Upstart film studio Creator Plus has raised $12 million to produce movies starring digital talent.
- The company plans to make six films this year that will air on its own streaming app, “Creator+.”
- Creator Plus is testing out a pay-per-view model rather than charging a monthly subscription fee.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
YouTube creators are becoming boxers and podcast hosts. Is movie stardom next?
A new film and streaming upstart called Creator Plus (styled “Creator+”) has raised $12 million to produce long-form movies starring influencers.
The startup, cofounded by Next 10 Ventures’ Benjamin Grubbs and investor Jonathan Shambroom, says it will produce six feature films this year. The movies will air on a new streaming platform the company created starting in 2022. To watch a film, users pay per view rather than paying a monthly subscription fee for access. The company said the price for a film rental will be roughly the cost of a movie ticket, and that creators get a cut of any sales generated. It plans to spend low seven-figure budgets on each project.
“A transactional model allows us with each creator and each project to have that be a meaningful business opportunity for the creator where there’s accountability, the economics are specific to that project, and that creator and the company both benefit,” Shambroom said. “There’s a mind-dizzying array of subscription choices out there for people today, and we saw the opportunity to do something different.”
Creator Plus isn’t the only company scouting social-media influencers for movies. Miramax and Netflix cast TikTok creator Addison Rae Easterling to star in its “She’s All That” remake, “He’s All That.” Mark Walhberg’s Unrealistic Ideas colaunched a new content studio focused on digital creators with TikTok star Josh Richards. And digital native startups like Brat, Amp Studios, and Superplastic are similarly looking for ways to move digital talent onto other screens.
It’s also not the first startup to raise funding to launch a streaming platform for digital creators. Jason Kilar, now WarnerMedia’s CEO, raised $75 million in 2014 to lure content creators over to a new video subscription service called Vessel. And Fullscreen Media launched a Netflix-style subscription service in 2016. Both services shut down within a couple years.
But unlike its predecessors, Creator Plus is offering its films for rental rather than charging a monthly subscription.
“We don’t have the burden of supporting a subscription model,” Shambroom said. “For a subscription offer to work as a value proposition, you need a massive catalog of choice and that comes with cost structure. We’re able to now work directly with creators of our choosing and incrementally roll out projects and have each one of them be profitable and then share that with the creator.”
Other influencer upstarts have tested out pay-per-view models this year. Triller Fight Club, an on-demand platform that airs boxing matches between internet stars and traditional fighters, charged $49.99 for viewers to tune into its most recent streaming event. Grubbs said internet users are well-practiced in paying for individual items to support creators they admire, whether that means buying a MrBeast burger or purchasing a pair of sweatpants featuring an influencer’s catchprase.
“We’ve seen demonstration of that, again, through merchandise, consumer products, and consumers’ willingness to actually pay out on a per transaction basis,” he said.
The company’s $12 million financing round was led by PETRA Group and Freestyle Capital, which also invested in the creator subscription platform Patreon. Other participating investors include Jake Roper, a producer behind the YouTube network Vsauce, and music artist and YouTube creator Peter Hollins.
Creator Plus has hired Adam Wescott from Select Management Group to serve as the head of its content studio, Nick Phillips to head up production, McKenna Marshall to lead development, and Twitch‘s Tricia Choi to be its head of product. Wescott, Philipps, and Marshall will serve as producers on all projects. Ben O’Keefe is joining Creator Plus as its head of diversity and impact, a focus area for the company as it looks to recruit a diverse roster of talent for its films.
“Our intention is that the movies that we’re going to be working on and bringing to the market, we want to be perceived and stand up to any other movie that is being released today,” Grubbs said.
And while Creator Plus’ low seven-figure production budgets are small when compared to film projects by bigger Hollywood players, the company said its digital talent are used to working scrappily.
Shambroom said that creators “are accustomed to being incredibly resourceful in producing their short-form content.”
“We won’t be doing any helicopter chase scenes, that’s for sure,” he added.
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