By Steve Donohue, for [itvt]

Walt Disney Co.'s deal to acquire online content producer Maker Studios will help it use short-form video to market movies, theme parks and TV shows, CEO Bob Iger said Tuesday.

“Getting maximum traction from the distribution perspective takes a lot of expertise and a lot of experience, and they [Maker] have got a lot of it. So we think there is a huge marketing opportunity for this company,” Iger told analysts on Disney’s first-quarter earnings call. 

Disney agreed to pay $500 million to acquire Maker, which programs more than 55,000 YouTube channels, in March. Maker investors could earn an additional $450 million if it hits performance targets set by Disney.

Iger said Disney would be able to use Maker to expand the reach of Disney franchises such as Star Wars and the brands that it acquired through its $4.6 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

“We can actually allow the Maker people to substantially improve the distribution or the reach of short-form video using these characters and stories, but also add their expertise on the production side. They also have great access to data and algorithms that you wouldn't have unless you had volume,” Iger added.

The Maker deal could also see Disney generate revenue from an online video distributor that was beginning to challenge the media giant with an expansion into kids and family programs. For example, last summer, Maker signed a licensing deal with American Greetings that gave it rights to distribute episodes of The Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake on YouTube.

Disney has made a few significant moves this year that are aimed at helping it drive viewing on mobile devices. These include its launch of Disney Movies Anywhere with Apple, and a distribution deal with Dish Network that will allow the satellite TV provider to sell streaming video from Disney-owned networks through personal subscriptions.

 “We think you are going to see continued growth of consumption of media, entertainment in particular on mobile platforms, smartphones and tablets. We feel we need to be present in that space,” Iger said.