It’s a good time to be a YouTuber… or at least own a popular YouTube channel. We’re seeing the online-video landscape mature, and start to resemble how networks and studios connect. The networks (Disney, Yahoo, YouTube) are working with studios (online-video studios and some individual partners/channels) in some interesting ways….
What’s interesting about these big moves is how markedly different this is from the past behavior of these companies.
We saw Disney making some early bets with its own home-grown online-video content. Remember Stage 9?
Yahoo contacted me and other YouTubers around 2008 to discuss potential revenue-sharing deals. They were considering exclusivity at the time, and that’s a deal breaker for YouTubers that won’t give up their primary audience.
And Google? It hasn’t even marketed itself well, much less its partners. And who would ever imagined the tech-engineering company would advertise YouTube partners on TV, print or outdoor? They’re doing it, but you know it pains them.
So what’s all this mean?
These events don’t impact your typical YouTuber, but the winners of the Yahoo/Google efforts will be the YouTube creators with large audience and studio representation by one of the online-video networks. That’s because Yahoo and Google will have to deal with the complexities of Discovery to get to Revision3 content, and Disney to get to Maker channels/creators.
But watch for partnerships between Yahoo and smaller studios like Fullscreen, BigFrame and Collective.
And what about Google’s efforts to promote YouTubers beyond the YouTube regulars? I would expect to see “the rich get richer,” because it’s most likely to promote the proven content with top views. So like a marathon’s second half, we’ll see an increasing distance between the leaders and the rest.
There will surely be some more attempts to lock creators and studios to “exclusive” arrangements, although Yahoo won’t get anywhere requiring that of popular YouTubers. But it makes sense. TV shows don’t get to broadcast on every channel. The networks pick the shows, and promote them to “their” audience. We’ll see that happening with top YouTube channels in coming months and years, which is why YouTube will have to work harder to cultivate relationships and keep stars/channels.
AdWeek reports that Paul Kontonis, former online video producer and agency guy, is heading the new Global Online Video Association (GOVA). Kontonis has been a leader in the online video space from its inception, including such roles as founder of “For Your Imagination,” VP at Digitas’ Third Act, and chairman of International Academy of Web Television.
By day, Kontonis heads sales and strategy for one of the top “multichannel networks” (MCNs) called Collective Digital Studio. GOVA is made up of nine of the top MCNs (also called online-video studios and “new networks”). These include Collective, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Big Frame, BroadbandTV, DECA, Discovery’s Revision3, Magnet Media and MiTu Networks. Machinima is conspicuously absent, but unlikely for long (it’s quite common for the biggest in an industry to initially think they don’t need an association).
Caveat: I know Kontonis and like him (which is why I am allowed to call him a gavone as a term of respect). He was even in one of my videos where I thought I turned invisible. But I haven’t spoken to him in a while and know nothing directly about his GOVA appointment. So this is all my speculation based on watching this space mature. And I wrote a book, so shut up.
What’s ahead, and what does GOVA mean to the networks and the maturing landscape of online video?
Bargaining Power with YouTube. The online-video networks, or “multichannel networks,” will now have a collective voice they’ll need more in coming years. That’s in part because YouTube, the virtual monopoly on distribution, is increasingly turning its attention to more mainstream studios and traditional networks. As YouTube grows, it will be increasingly difficult for individual studios to command the attention they’ve received in the past. How do we know that? History is the best predictor: Initially top YouTube stars could garner attention from Google and resolve issues. But eventually YouTube creators needed the power of a network. The networks don’t know it yet, but in years ahead they’ll need strength in greater numbers than they have today.
Bumpy Road, Herding Cats. Associations can be tricky, as participants theoretically want a collective voice, but they’re also competing against each other for precious advertising dollars. Kontonis has shown he’s got the diplomacy and persuasion to herd these network cats.
Could Slow Down Acquisitions. In the coming years, we’d expect to see more of these online-video networks get acquired by larger players. Discovery ate Revision3. Google ate Next New Networks. GOVA may give some of these players more time to play independently, if they wish, before the eventual consolidation of traditional and “multichannel” networks in the 2015-2020 period. That doesn’t mean the MCNs will be less attractive to acquiring parties, it just means they won’t be as desperate to be sold. That’s a very good thing for individual creators of these networks. (When they do get acquired, they’ll try to convince you it’s a good thing… but as a loyal WVFF reader you’ll know better).
Developing Emerging Channels to Reduce Dependency on YouTube. As we look beyond YouTube, the major stakeholders are technology companies, advertisers, and content creators. Years ago, an individual studio could negotiate their video content onto new platforms — like we saw Revision3 do with Roku and College Humor do with TiVo. But that will be more difficult as stakes increase and traditional networks start seeing more meaningful “TV dollars” moving to emerging channels. This coordinated approach through GOVA will increase the studio’s voice with new platforms. Watch for GOVA serving a role to keep them “out in front” of new platforms — from Roku to Netflix and Hulu to Amazon. And more importantly, the emerging video distribution platforms we don’t yet see coming. Maybe one day even AppleTV!
Other Boring But Important Crap. GOVA can also help with legislation/regulation, advertising formats, metric standardization, growth of the online-video, and thought leadership. Depending on the issue, they will likely partner and challenge other players like IAB, ComScore, traditional media associations, and marketing agencies.
Four More Years. That’s how long I see this lasting. By 2018, we’d expect GOVA to roll into the Internet Advertising Bureau, IRTS or some other association. But no other association has the knowledge of or focus on this medium.
Bottom Line. Creators and studios need GOVA whether they know it or not. Otherwise the technology platforms and advertisers will set the agenda.
It’s the hottest thing on YouTube since Susan Boyle did the “Evolution of Dance.” But you won’t find it covered on television, there’s no press release, and virtually no online or print articles written about it.
A collection of YouTube “stars” have joined forces on a single channel (thestation), and it was almost instantly propelled it to one of YouTube’s most-subscribed channels… even before it had a single video posted. TheStation, now one of the 25 most-subscribed channels, was parked in June, 2006. But the activity began in mid July 2009 (see TheStation’s Twitter account), when the individual stars began to promote the TheStation on their own channels.
TheStation’s debut video was posted July 21, 2009 (a zombie teaser). Here’s the Zombie debut (see on YouTube), and above (see video box) is a cleaner version with synched audio). Zombie’s sell, of course….
That tells us TheStation isn’t just a creative consortium but a potential online-video marketing machine. In fact, TheStation is shaping up to be an online-video version of the “brat pack.”
“Stars” include Shane Dawson (ShaneDawsonTV), PhillyD (sxephil), and DaveDays — three of the most-subscribed YouTubers. ShayCarl, one of the fastest-rising YouTube creators, moved his family to Venice Beach, California earlier in 2009… living just blocks from Donovan.
Girls2Watch reports that the business behind TheStation is “Maker Studios,” with a goal to make “create quality consistent programming with their core talent which will attract both a huge online audience as well as advertisers who want to get into the Youtube space.” (via BuckNews). No sign of a Maker Studios, LLC., but Donovan’s listed as the agent for Zappin (California Secretary of State).
Donovan and Diamond have loaned their apartments to various online-video weblerities, assembling what I like to call a “YouTube YouTopia” in Venice Beach. Davedays moved from Pennsylvania to California (despite my parental-like caution), and has been offering his musical talent to the motley crew. DaveDays is best known for his Barbie video, and collection of Miley Cyrus homages). Sxephil, also known as Philip DeFranco, moved from Atlanta this summer to join the gang in Venice Beach (with help from friend ShayCarl).
Where’s this going? Now we’re in speculation mode. For starters, it’s clearly a smart creative and professional move for the individuals… especially the lesser known stars who now win by association. The “combo-pack” performance model has proven to work in comedy, music and film (Oceans 11)… so why not web?
I asked Diamond/Zappin his vision for TheStation while visiting Venice Beach this summer, and he was somewhat vague or abstract. Initially, it’s about pooling creative talent and gaing efficiencies from production… a web studio approach (ala Next New Network or Revision3) but with already popular stars and shows. We’ll see TheStation lure brands (hungry for its eyeballs) to finance the operations (Diamond has helped LisaNova and others secure marketing sponsorships), which means it’s more than a creative collaboration.
The station, however, will face four non-trivial challenges:
Money introduces conflict. As the YouTube advertising revenue and other marketing sponsorships draw potential profit to TheStation, the individuals will struggle to ensure revenue is shared appropriately (which is arbitrary at best). The bigger stars may have difficulty balancing the full-time job of maintaining their own channels (with some enjoying 6-figure incomes) and the time they contribute to TheStation, which will provide them with less direct financial return for their time. What the group lacks in business-management experience, however, it makes up for in creative talent, new-marketing prowess and energy.
Holier than tho? The stars run the risk of being perceived by the community as “elitist” (see this whining vlog as example). Although to be fair, members of this team have a history of brilliantly satirizing elitist behavior on YouTube (see this satire of AsOne, where Diamond spoof Sxephil’s appearance in an SMPFilms promotion of Philadelphia “AsOne” event that never occurred). And hey- it’s all “water under the bridge,” because TheStation folks all hit SMPFilm’s wedding last week. Congratulations, Cory. This post counts as my wedding gift.