2015-newfrontsStop me if you’ve already heard this one: The 2015 Digital Content NewFronts starts today and 33 media companies will walk into bars and other locations in New York City to make presentations to thousands of advertisers at a series of events from now until May 7. Now, here’s the punchline: One of these media companies is YouTube, but seven others are YouTube Multi-channel Networks (MCNs). Seriously! Collective Digital Studio, Discovery Digital Networks, Fullscreen, Machinima, Maker Studios, StyleHaul, and Whistle Sports will be making their own pitches to advertisers. You can’t make this stuff up.

But, I’ve noticed that you aren’t rolling on the floor laughing your ass off. So, let me use this metaphor: Imagine a television network trying to sell advertisers 30-second spots for the Super Bowl while seven other entities are trying to sell the same advertisers 30-second spots for the pre-game show, first quarter, second quarter, halftime show, third quarter, fourth quarter, and post-game show. Let’s take a look into why these MCNs are hosting their own events.

MCNs: YouTube Networks – Or – Multi-Platform Networks?

In other words, even if they don’t always refer to themselves as MCNs anymore, Multi-Channel Networks are entities that affiliate with multiple YouTube channels, often to offer assistance in areas such as product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development. But, they’re still selling slices off YouTube’s devoted fanbase, aren’t they? And they still have to give YouTube ~45% of their advertising revenue – even if they negotiate their own deals with brands and agencies, right? Well, not if MCNs are mutating into Multi-Platform Networks (MPNs).

But, wait a second. According to comScore, Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube, ranked as the top online video content property in March 2015 with 150 million unique viewers in the U.S.

Facebook ranked #2 with 94.6 million viewers, followed by AOL, Inc. with 65.8 million, Yahoo Sites with 62.9 million, and VEVO with 44.4 million. But Facebook doesn’t have a partner program, does it? And, although AOL has negotiated some deals with creators, Yahoo Sites haven’t … yet. And didn’t Google recently become one of the owners of VEVO along with the Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music Entertainment (SMG), and Abu Dhabi Entertainment?

So, if MCNs are mutating into MPNs, then how many unique viewers or views do they have to offer advertisers – beyond the ones that YouTube already offers? Using exclusive data from Tubular Labs, we took a look at three of the most successful creators that produce video content, to see which platforms they’re really winning on.

1) FullScreen’s TheFineBros = 97.7% YouTube Views

Well, according to Tubular Labs, Fullscreen represents about 30,000 YouTube channels. And Fullscreen’s #1 YouTube channel is TheFineBros, which has 12 million subscribers. The Fine Brothers, Benny and Rafi, are siblings who are probably best known for their successful React video series (Kids React, Teens React, Elders React, etc.), and their several timed spoiler series, as well as creating the first transmedia sitcom on YouTube, MyMusic. Their most watched video is entitled, “YouTubers React to Try to Watch This Without Laughing or Grinning.” It has 36.3 million views on YouTube.

But TheFineBros are becoming a multi-platform creator. For example, TheFineBros on Facebook have 464,000 Page Likes. TheFineBros on Twitter have 921,000 followers. TheFineBros on Instagram have 626,000 subscribers. And TheFineBros on Vine have 107,000 followers. However, in the past 30 days, videos by TheFineBros have received 100 million views: 97.7 million on YouTube, 1.2 million on Vine, 801,000 on Facebook, and 253,000 on Instagram.

Now, subscribers and views on YouTube are different than subscribers or views on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram. Nevertheless, if you look at social reach of The Fine Brothers, YouTube accounts for 12 million out of 14.2 million of their subscribers. That’s an 84.5% share. And in you look at their monthly video views, YouTube generated 97.7 million out of 100 million views over the past 30 days. That’s a 97.7% share.

TheFineBros

The Fine Bros: Cross-platform and social reach (Data via Tubular Labs)

So, yes, The Fine Brothers are multi-platform creators. But YouTube’s still the big dog and the three or four other platforms are merely the long-tail.

2) Maker Studios’ / RPMNetworks’ KSI = 95.9% YouTube Views

According to Tubular Labs, Maker 3 (RPMNetworks) represents about 29,000 YouTube channels. And Maker’s #1 YouTube channel is KSI, which has 9.1 million subscribers. Olajide Olatunji, better known by his YouTube username Ksiolajidebt (stylised as KSIOlajideBT), is an English YouTuber, video game commentator, comedian and rapper. He is also referred to as KSI or JJ. He is of Nigerian descent and can sometimes be seen wearing traditional Nigerian dresses in his videos. KSI’s most watched video is entitled, “Harlem Shake (Black Edition).” It has 18 million views on YouTube.

But, KSI is also becoming a multi-platform creator. For example, KSIOlajideBT on Facebook has 1.8 million Page Likes. KSI on Twitter has 1.7 million followers. TheRealKSI on Instagram has 1.5 million subscribers. And KSIOlajideBT on Vine has 438,000 followers. In the past 30 days, videos by KSI have received 74.9 million views: 71.8 million on YouTube, 2.1 million on Facebook, 709,000 on Vine, and 238,000 on Instagram.

Again, all subscribers and views are not created equal. Nevertheless, if you look at KSI’s social reach, YouTube generates 9.1 million out of 14.7 million subscribers. That’s a 61.9% share. And if you look at his monthly video views, YouTube generated 71.8 million out of 74.9 million views over the past 30 days. That’s a 95.9% share.

KSI

KSI: Cross-platform and social reach (Data via Tubular Labs)

So, once again, YouTube is the big dog, and the other platforms are merely the long tail.

3) Machinima’s HolaSoyGerman = 99.5% YouTube Views

And according to Tubular Labs, Machinima represents about 14,000 YouTube channels. Surprisingly, Machinima’s #1 YouTube channel is HolaSoyGerman, which has 21.9 million subscribers. Germán Alejandro Garmendia Aranis, best known as HolaSoyGerman, is a comedian from Copiapó, Chile. His most watched video is entitled, “Los Hermanos | Hola Soy German.” It has 43.5 million views on YouTube.

HolaSoyGerman

HolaSoyGerman: Cross-platform and social reach (Data via Tubular Labs)

But it looks like Germán is also becoming a multi-platform creator. For example, HolaSoyGerman on Facebook has 15.0 million Page Likes. German Garmendia on Twitter has 5.5 million followers. Germanchelo on Instagram has 1.2 million subscribers. And Hola Soy German on Vine has 7,000 followers. But in the past 30 days, 43.2 million out of his 43.4 million monthly video views have come from YouTube and only 284,000 have come from Instagram. So, even though half of his social reach comes from other platforms, 99.5% of his views come from YouTube. 

So, let’s step back and take a deep breath before the tail wags the dog. By and large, the Multi-Channel Networks are still MCNs. They may have ambitions to become Multi-Platform Networks down the road, but I believe that they still have a way to go in terms of their journey to become MPNs.

Meanwhile, YouTube announced about a month ago:

  • google-preferredGoogle Preferred year two: Since the first year of Google Preferred (Gootube’s program of premium channels to advertisers) was so successful, YouTube is offering it again in the U.S. and is expanding it to over 10 more markets this year.
  • Google Preferred has spurred interest in YouTube from traditional TV advertisers: More than 30 brands that used Google Preferred last year had not previously advertised with YouTube, and continued to advertise with YouTube afterward.
  • Brands are seeing success with Google Preferred: On average, brands have seen an 80 percent increase in ad recall and a 17 percent increase in brand awareness for Google Preferred campaigns across about 50 studies.
  • Google Preferred reaches a valuable audience: Based on a 2014 U.S. panel study, Google Preferred content viewers in-market for certain products are 46 percent more likely to search a brand on YouTube.
  • Creators have grown revenue through Google Preferred: The top 100 YouTube creators in Google Preferred saw their partner revenue go up 70 percent year over year compared to 50 percent for creators on YouTube generally.

And at YouTube Brandcast, Google’s 2015 Digital Content NewFront show, guests will learn why people dedicate hundreds of millions of hours to watching and sharing YouTube videos. YouTube’s most popular creators will share success stories, and top brands will show how they are innovating on YouTube to own the moments that matter.

So, why are so many Multi-Channel Networks still holding their own events at the 2015 Digital Content NewFronts? Didn’t they get invitations to YouTube’s invitation-only event at the Theater at Madison Square Garden? Or, maybe they’re worried that Google is only focused on the top 100 YouTube creators, while they have thousands of mouths to feed.

Or, do they think YouTube will leave money on the table at the 2015 NewFronts? According to Anna Bager, IAB’s Senior Vice President of Mobile and Video:

“Digital video is today’s go-to for consumers looking not only for innovative programming, but for all content, long form or short. It brought in $1.5 billion dollars in ad revenue in the first half of 2014 alone, a double-digit increase over the same time the year before – confirming the fact that marketers see great value in tapping into its highly-engaged audiences.”

Although the content of IAB’s video about the 2015 NewFronts is “fair and balanced,” it’s worth noting that the video itself is hosted on YouTube.

Or, maybe – just maybe – each of the seven media companies which started out as a YouTube network are already looking down the road. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So, why can’t the transformation of an MCN into an MPN begin with a single event? Oh, and for those readers not familiar with NewFronts, this not-entirely-serious video may help to understand them a little better :-)

UPDATE: The Global Online Video Association’s P.O.V. / Response

govaGOVA’s POV: The media and entertainment companies that manage multi-channel networks have always been much more than just an aggregation of YouTube channels. These companies have defined new content formats, identified content verticals and built meaningful scale for advertisers on the YouTube platform. Social media distribution of content and the audience building practices have been standard fare across the top social platforms for the MCNs. The future holds promises of content business models on each of the social platforms to enable the companies to grow as they have through their partnership with YouTube.