I watch a lot of YouTube videos and have been following the fortunes of a few channels. What I’m talking about here is channels putting up professionally produced content with hosts, guests, actors, camera crews, etc. Not someone making their own content at home (the economic viability of which is a whole other topic).
One channel that seems to be in freefall is Break: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClmmbesFjIzJAp8NQCtt8dQ
Until recently, they were doing elaborate prank videos. They lost (got rid of?) their main “star” and started using different talent. One “show” they had on their channel was called “Odd Jobs,” in which they’d have a person visit the set, thinking they were doing some paperwork or something but then put them in a weird situation. Although views were fairly substantial, my back-of-the-hand was that the episodes were costing $5k apiece to make, easily, and there was no way they were paying for themselves.
Prank content on Break has disappeared recently, and they’re barely even putting up the kind of videos they started out with: fail videos, etc. I have to assume they’re not doing too well.
Another channel I like but worry about is Screen Junkies: https://www.youtube.com/user/screenjunkies
They have a lot of elaborate content on nice sets with a variety of hosts, etc. They recently launched a paid service on their own website: Screen Junkies Plus. I worry that they have vastly overextended themselves, as they have launched quite a few shows, including a scripted parody of Agents of Shield (which was terrible). Screen Junkies does get sponsors for some but not all of the one program of theirs that I watch regularly: Movie Fights. But again, it’s hard for me to imagine this stuff really paying for itself with the rough calculation that 1M YouTube views earns about $1,000.
So here’s my logic about professionally produced YouTube content: If a commercial television show struggles to make money even with some sort of substantial viewership, then how can a YouTube program survive with much less viewership?
And I extend that logic to the series that Netflix et al. are starting to put out. Of course, with Netflix, the challenge will be to determine what number of subscribers are subscribing because of the original content. I am interested in the upcoming Gilmore Girls reboot (quite jazzed, in fact!–my gf got me into the show…), and she or I might sign up for Netflix because of that, but Netflix can’t read my mind and know why I signed up. Sure, they can calculate the views of a show, but it’s still hard to know for sure the level of motivation to sign up and/or willingness to continue the subscription for any given show. Then there is the simple fact that those shows are going to cost money on the level of, say, a 90s scripted show like Friends but not generate anywhere near the eyeballs that a show like that used to receive (mindblowing article: the top show in 2014 would not have been in the top 50 in 1994: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/09/02/network_tv_in_1994_how_the_big_four_s_last_golden_age_happened_20_years.html).
So, those are my thoughts. What are yours?