No representatives from YouTube spoke at the Silicon Beach Festival in Santa Monica on Thursday, but in panel after panel the discussions drifted back to the Google-owned video hosting giant.
“We’re constantly looking at new sources of distribution, whether it’s companies like Yahoo, Hulu or any number of the other distribution platforms out there. But when you’re building a brand, building a presence, YouTube has the eyeballs.”
The talk went beyond the usual grousing about YouTube’s ad revenue cut (generally pegged at a 45/55 ratio, favoring the content provider), and instead focused on the prospect of taking content off of YouTube and onto self-owned sites or upstart platforms from major competitors such as Yahoo or Maker Studios (Maker.tv).
“For Machinima, YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” said Aaron Mattison, Machinima’s VP/GM of partner network, on the Meet the MCNs panel. “We’ve taken some of the biggest stuff we have (Gamers SeaNanners and The Syndicate Project) and created their own off-YouTube websites with first-look or long-format videos that don’t monetize and don’t work as well on YouTube,” he said.
But to date, the “bread-and-butter, keeping-the-lights-on-in-the-building cashflow is that YouTube AdSense,” Mattison added. “We’re constantly looking at new sources of distribution, whether it’s companies like Yahoo, Hulu or any number of the other distribution platforms out there. But when you’re building a brand, building a presence, YouTube has the eyeballs. We don’t necessarily see that changing anytime soon.”
Content providers must be careful about trying to draw their audiences off of YouTube to their own sites with exclusive content and advanced peaks, warned panelist Matthew Patrick, producer of Game Theory and director of content strategy for Defy Media.
“YouTube punishes channels for pushing off the platform, just as much as they reward you for keeping people on,” said Patrick, who spoke on both the Meet the MCNs and Digital Content Fest panels. “They judge your retention time. So if my channel gets you to watch 10 videos in a row and each of those videos is 10 minutes, YouTube is like, ‘Wow, this channel is great’… and they share me all over the place. (But if) all of a sudden people are watching that one video and then clicking off to my web site, YouTube is like, ‘We don’t want to promote this guy.'”
But AdSense doesn’t have to be the sole source of income for a digital video brand, even if it’s confined to YouTube, noted Meet the MCNs panelist Dan Weinstein, president and founding partner of Collective Digital Studio, the company behind such franchises as Annoying Orange and Epic Meal Time.
As an example, Weinstein pointed to the YouTube duo Rhett & Link, whose main channel has more than 2.1 million subscribers and 293 million views.
“They do okay, but they certainly can’t support a family of 8 on the AdSense,” Weinstein said. “But they’ve been working with brands for the past 4 or 5 years … and they do 10 times their (AdSense) revenue through those types of campaigns. They also podcast, sell merchandise and all this sort of stuff that, when you look at in totality, is a really interesting living.”