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Disney's Maker to dive into Marvel universe

Maker Studios, the YouTube network Disney bought for as much as $950 million, will work with its parent's Marvel arm to make original digital programming.

Disney has leveraged characters from its takeover of Marvel into blockbuster film franchises. Sony Pictures Entertainment

Disney's Marvel characters rule the big screen with films like "The Avengers: Age of Ultron." Now they're aiming to conquer the smallest screens, too.

Maker Studios, a YouTube network that Disney bought last year for up to $950 million including performance targets, is working with its owner's Marvel division focus on original digital content and programming based on the its lore and current releases. The news was part of Maker's presentation at the "newfronts," when digital media companies make splashy pitches to advertisers and brands.

Disney's purchase of Maker last year was the most high-profile instance of traditional media companies scrambling to invest in what's known as multichannel networks. The companies group thousands of digital video creators on sites like YouTube and help them with advertising, audience growth and other services. For traditional media companies trying (and often failing) to connect their content with audiences online, these startups' expertise in the short-form video world outweighed their unproven track records on making profits.

On Tuesday, Maker also said it would work with Disney's ESPN and X Games to pair action-sport athletes with its content creators and would work with ABC's Lincoln Square Productions on politics and culture nonfiction stories leading up to the 2016 election.

Maker announced a slate of its own original content. It included "Camp," a coming-of-age series adapted from James Franco's "Palo Alto: Stories." It also unveiled talent signings, drawing from online celebrity and more mainstream names, such as designer and stylist Rachel Zoe.

Maker oversees a network of 55,000 independent digital video creators, mostly people on YouTube, that attract more than 10 billion monthly views.