Her answer was simple: “Bright lights, extraneous elements, and faster pacing.” In one of the videos I had her watch, a little boy dances flanked by two cows on a stage. A crowd waves its hands in the foreground. Lights flash and stars spin in the background. The boy and the cows perform “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and as they do, the dance floor lights up, à la Saturday Night Fever. Johnson told me all that movement risks distracting kids from any educational work the videos might do.
ChuChu TV, the company responsible for some of the most widely viewed toddler content on YouTube, has a suitably cute origin story. Vinoth Chandar, the CEO, had always played around on YouTube, making Hindu devotionals and little videos of his father, a well-known Indian music producer. But after he and his wife had a baby daughter, whom they nicknamed “Chu Chu,” he realized he had a new audience—of one. He drew a Chu Chu–like character in Flash, the animation program, and then created a short video of the girl dancing to the popular and decidedly unwoke Indian nursery rhyme “Chubby Cheeks.” (“Curly hair, very fair / Eyes are blue, lovely too / Teacher’s pet, is that you?”)
Estimates for YouTube's annual revenue, nearly all of which still comes from ads, vary a fair amount. But many of the estimates are now above $10 billion. At different points, Bank of America and Mizuho forecast that YouTube would post 2017 revenue of $13 billion and $12 billion, respectively. And in February, Baird's Colin Sebastian estimated YouTube is doing around $15 billion in annual sales.
Since PewDiePie’s December 9 video drew greater attention to the E;R channel, YouTube has reportedly suspended one of the creator’s videos and issued a strike against the account for violating the site’s community guidelines. The suspended video, which according to E;R had 2 million views at the time of its removal from YouTube, was ostensibly about Steven Universe — but it also contained four minutes of unedited footage of Hitler delivering a speech. YouTube has not yet responded to Vox’s request for comment.
In early May, Amazon announced a new service initially designed for "professional video producers." Launch partners include media firm Conde Nast, the "How Stuff Works" website and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Amazon Video Direct could compete for the young creative talent attracted to YouTube. As does YouTube, Amazon offers revenue-sharing and royalties for content that attracts a certain level of traffic.
The power of YouTube's ad-targeting abilities -- enabled by both its own user data and outside data it can get with Google's help -- have also helped its cause. So have its investments in building quality measurement tools that help companies gauge the impact of a video ad on things like awareness of a product and attitudes towards the brand that's selling it.
Consider start-up costs. Your start-up costs largely depend on the type of content you're putting out. For "Pittsburgh Dad," the cost to launch the show was virtually nothing, Preksta says. The first episode required just three supplies: Preksta's iPhone, a polo shirt from Goodwill and a pair of glasses. The show hasn't required much of an investment in technology since, "At the end of the day, it's me, Curt and a couple of lights," Preksta says.
ChuChu is largely making things up as it goes, responding—as any young company would—to what its consumers want. Despite the company’s earnest desire to educate the kids who watch its videos, it has not tried to use the lessons generated by previous generations of educational-TV makers. Its executives and developers don’t regularly work with academics who could help them shape their content to promote healthy development of young brains. So what effects are ChuChu’s shows having on kids? How does what it’s producing compare with whatever kids were watching before?
In October 2010, Hurley announced that he would be stepping down as chief executive officer of YouTube to take an advisory role, and that Salar Kamangar would take over as head of the company. In April 2011, James Zern, a YouTube software engineer, revealed that 30% of videos accounted for 99% of views on the site. In November 2011, the Google+ social networking site was integrated directly with YouTube and the Chrome web browser, allowing YouTube videos to be viewed from within the Google+ interface.