Danny Zappin

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Danny Zappin
Danny Zappin 2015.jpg
Born1975 (age 44–45)
Alma materOhio State University
OccupationCo-founder & CEO,
Maker Studios
Founder, president & CEO,
Zealot Networks
(2014–present)[citation needed]
Years active2004–present

Danny Zappin (born 1975)[1] is an American businessman. He is the co-founder of Maker Studios, and the founder, president and CEO of Zealot Networks.

Early life and education[edit]

Zappin was born in Columbus, Ohio.[1] His mother ran a Christian heavy-metal record label.[1] His brother is hip hop artist John Reuben.[2] He spent a few quarters at Ohio State University before moving to Florida. In the mid-1990s, he moved to New York, and then to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actor.[1] He had a small role in the 1999 Spike Lee film Summer of Sam.[3] In 2001, Zappin was convicted of felony drug possession for smuggling Ecstasy. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and released to home confinement in 2004.[1]


Internet videos[edit]

Zappin began creating videos for the Internet in the early 2000s, while working for CrapTV, an early online video streaming website.[4] In mid-2005, he began uploading videos to the then new website YouTube under the name Danny Diamond. Along with several other YouTube content creators, he began signing up online talent to create a digital studio for YouTube.[1][3]

Maker Studios[edit]

In 2009, Zappin co-founded the YouTube multichannel network and online video producer Maker Studios, serving as its CEO until his resignation in April 2013.[1][5][6] Founded in Venice, California, Maker was one of the first content providers on YouTube to reach 1 million views.[1] By the end of 2012, Maker was one of the top five networks on YouTube, with over 2 billion views per month, according to comScore.[7] The idea behind Maker was to create a new type of studio model, a collaborative, creator-friendly multichannel network helping to boost views and better monetize online short-form content.[7][8] Zappin is considered to be one of the first to recognize the platform's potential for new types of content and talent.[5]

Zappin's legal history came up in the midst of a 2012 dispute between Maker Studios and YouTube celebrity Ray William Johnson over the terms of a new contract.[7][9]

In June 2013, two months after his resignation, Zappin sued Maker Studios' partners and investors, alleging there was a conspiracy to oust him from the board.[7][10] Along with three other former Maker executives, he sued Maker for a second time in April 2014, to block a shareholder vote on the acquisition of the company by the Walt Disney Company, shortly after the studio agreed to purchase Maker in a deal worth up to $950 million.[10] The lawsuit was rejected by a California judge and the sale went through.[11] Zappin earned $25 million in the sale.[12]

On October 17, 2013, Zappin announced that he had acquired digital entertainment news website NewMediaRockstars, intending to broaden its coverage of new media.[1][13]

Zealot Networks[edit]

In the summer of 2014, Zappin raised $25 million from former and current Maker employees, talent and executives, along with his own money, to form Zealot Networks.[5] In an August 2014 press release, Zappin announced the launch of his new digital media company, "a digital-first media company and growth accelerator."[5][10] By the end of the year, Zealot had raised additional capital from UK broadcaster ITV, the largest commercial television network in the UK.[14] Zealot was based in Venice, California,[15] with Zappin serving as the company's president and CEO.[12]

Zappin stated that the company was a continuation of his work with content creators at multi-channel network Maker Studios. Rather than focusing solely on YouTube talent, Zealot was a multi-company network, made up of a variety of interconnected digital media companies with different areas of expertise working together in an effort to accelerate their collective growth.[16][17]

By November 2016, the company had raised $26.5 million in venture capital and an additional $30 million in debt financing. It used that money to buy 17 other content generating companies with a combination of cash and equity, including ViralNova for $100 million in 2015.[18] Other acquisitions had included a majority stake in content-licensing company AudioMicro, the parent company AdRev in December 2014 for approximately $20 million,[19][20] Premier Sports & Entertainment in January 2015,[21] Converge Media Group and Neighbor Agency and Idea Farmer in February 2015,[22][23][24] Threshold Interactive in March 2015,[25] and in May 2015, Lord Danger and Hutch Media.[26][27]

By the end of 2016 the company was in financial trouble, and had asked its executives to forgo being paid and a team of current and former executives offered to buy Zappin out.[18] Zealot's website went down in November 2016.[28]

  • In April 2017 BumpClick, which had at some point acquired ViralNova from Zealot, was sold to Function(x) for $25M.[29][30]
  • In January 2018 AVL Digital Group acquired AudioMicro and its AdRev and DashGo divisions from an unnamed party for an unnamed price.[31]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eriq Gardner, “Maker Studios Lawsuit: Inside the War for YouTube’s Top Studio,” The Hollywood Reporter, October 24, 2013.
  2. ^ Justin Sarachik, “John Reuben has Enough Songs for a New Album,” Rapzilla, March 24, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Jeff Klima, “A Timeline: Former Maker Head Danny Zappin Sues Ex-Girlfriend Lisa Nova – Where Did the Love Go?” Archived 2015-06-09 at the Wayback Machine NewMediaRockstars, June 28, 2013.
  4. ^ Cohen, Joshua. "Danny Zappin - Event / Speaker Platform". Social Media Week. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Mike Shields, “Ex Maker Studios CEO Danny Zappin Raises Funding For New Web Video Venture,” Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2014.
  6. ^ John Kell, “Maker Studios Ex-CEO Seeks to Block Takeover by Disney,” Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Ryan Lawler, "Maker Studios Co-Founder Danny Zappin Sues The Company Over His Ouster," TechCrunch, June 26, 2013.
  8. ^ David Zax, “A YouTube Studio Borrows the Old Hollywood System to Make Big Hits,” Fast Company, June 11, 2012.
  9. ^ Peter Kafka, “YouTube Powerhouse Maker Studios Fights With Its Biggest Star. It’s Not Pretty.” All Things Digital, December 12, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Saba Hamedy, “Ex-Maker Studios CEO launches digital media company,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2014.
  11. ^ Brooks Barnes, “Bid to Upend Disney’s Deal for Maker Studios Falls Short,” New York Times, April 14, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Nicole Laporte, “Maker Studios’ Former CEO Takes Disney’s Millions to Move Beyond YouTube,” Fast Company, August 4, 2014.
  13. ^ Todd Spangler, “Maker Studios Founder Danny Zappin Buys Website NewMediaRockstars,” Variety, October 17, 2013.
  14. ^ Melissah Yang, “Zealot Networks Valued at $100 Million,” Los Angeles Business Journal, December 22, 2014.
  15. ^ Natalie Jarvey, “Danny Zappin’s Zealot Heads to Venice,” The Hollywood Reporter, September 17, 2014.
  16. ^ Evan DeSimone, “Danny Zappin Goes Beyond the MCN With Zealot,” NewMediaRockstars, August 4, 2014.
  17. ^ Natalie Jarvey, “Zealot Networks Acquires J.B. Smoove’s Converge Media Group,” The Hollywood Reporter, February 5, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Reim, Garrett (11 November 2016). "After Financial Problems, Bid Underway to Acquire Zealot Networks & Remove Danny Zappin as CEO". Los Angeles Business Journal.
  19. ^ Todd Spangler, “Danny Zappin, Ousted CEO of Maker Studios, Raises $25 Million to Launch Digital Studio,” Variety, August 4, 2014.
  20. ^ Peter Kafka, “Maker Studios Founder Danny Zappin Is Back in Business and Buying Companies. Here’s His First Deal.” Re/code, December 18, 2014.
  21. ^ Melissah Yang, “Zealot Networks Acquires Premier Sports & Entertainment,” Los Angeles Business Journal, January 8, 2015.
  22. ^ Todd Spangler, “Danny Zappin’s Zealot Networks Buys Converge Media Group Talent Agency From JB Smoove and Others,” Variety, February 5, 2015.
  23. ^ Natalie Jarvey, “Zealot Networks Acquires J.B. Smoove’s Converge Media Group,” The Hollywood Reporter, February 5, 2015.
  24. ^ Omar Shamout, “Zealot Networks Buys Two Creative Marketing Companies,” Los Angeles Business Journal, February 17, 2015.
  25. ^ Tim Peterson, “Zealot Networks Buys Threshold Interactive, Its Third Ad Agency,” Ad Age, March 12, 2015.
  26. ^ Sahil Patel, “Zealot Networks Buys Music-Video Production Company Lord Danger,” Archived 2015-06-14 at the Wayback Machine Video Ink, May 12, 2015.
  27. ^ Garrett Reim, “Zealot Buys Small Publisher, Hints at Future,” Los Angeles Business Journal, May 18, 2015.
  28. ^ "Wayback Machine entry for Zealot". Retrieved 11 June 2018.Archive index at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Sillerman's Function(x) on clickbait buying spree". IQ Magazine. 3 April 2017.
  30. ^ "Press release: Function(x) and BumpClick Amend Terms of Binding Term Sheet To Eliminate Cash Payment at Closing". Function(x). May 11, 2017. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017.
  31. ^ "Press release: AVL Digital Group acquires AudioMicro, AdRev, and DashGo". AVL Digital Group via Radio and Music. 10 Jan 2018.