FOR CHRIS PREKSTA, co-launching the now-popular YouTube show "Pittsburgh Dad" was a "happy accident." In 2011, Preksta filmed his co-creator Curt Wootton performing an amusing impression of his father's Pittsburgh-inflected accent, and the pair edited it to look like a family sitcom. They uploaded it to YouTube, primarily to share with their own families. But soon, the video was receiving tens of thousands of views and gaining coverage on local media stations.
YouTube is pulling in plenty of dollars – 4 billion of them in 2014, up by a billion on 2013 – but it’s also spending it like there’s no tomorrow. People “familiar with its financials” told the Wall Street Journal this week that after forking out for original content and also the infrastructure to keep the whole shebang going, the company is just about breaking even.
The driver dropped me off just south of the center of the city, in an area of new high-rises that overlook Srinivasapuram, a fishing village on the Bay of Bengal. The village hangs on to the edge of the city, which has been modernizing fast; the government has been trying to relocate the village for years. From my hotel, I watched tiny figures wander over to the Adyar River estuary and squat, staring up at the opulence of the new Chennai.
The YouTube interface suggests which local version should be chosen on the basis of the IP address of the user. In some cases, the message "This video is not available in your country" may appear because of copyright restrictions or inappropriate content. The interface of the YouTube website is available in 76 language versions, including Amharic, Albanian, Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Khmer, Kyrgyz, Laotian, Mongolian, Persian and Uzbek, which do not have local channel versions. Access to YouTube was blocked in Turkey between 2008 and 2010, following controversy over the posting of videos deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and some material offensive to Muslims. In October 2012, a local version of YouTube was launched in Turkey, with the domain youtube.com.tr. The local version is subject to the content regulations found in Turkish law. In March 2009, a dispute between YouTube and the British royalty collection agency PRS for Music led to premium music videos being blocked for YouTube users in the United Kingdom. The removal of videos posted by the major record companies occurred after failure to reach agreement on a licensing deal. The dispute was resolved in September 2009. In April 2009, a similar dispute led to the removal of premium music videos for users in Germany.
The online-video unit posted revenue of about $4 billion in 2014, up from $3 billion a year earlier, according to two people familiar with its financials, as advertiser-friendly moves enticed some big brands to spend more. But while YouTube accounted for about 6% of Google’s overall sales last year, it didn’t contribute to earnings. After paying for content, and the equipment to deliver speedy videos, YouTube’s bottom line is “roughly break-even,” according to a person with knowledge of the figure.
Google does not provide detailed figures for YouTube's running costs, and YouTube's revenues in 2007 were noted as "not material" in a regulatory filing. In June 2008, a Forbes magazine article projected the 2008 revenue at $200 million, noting progress in advertising sales. In January 2012, it was estimated that visitors to YouTube spent an average of 15 minutes a day on the site, in contrast to the four or five hours a day spent by a typical US citizen watching television. In 2012, YouTube's revenue from its ads program was estimated at $3.7 billion. In 2013 it nearly doubled and estimated to hit $5.6 billion according to eMarketer, while others estimated $4.7 billion. The vast majority of videos on YouTube are free to view and supported by advertising. In May 2013, YouTube introduced a trial scheme of 53 subscription channels with prices ranging from $0.99 to $6.99 a month. The move was seen as an attempt to compete with other providers of online subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu. In 2017, viewers on average watch YouTube on mobile devices for more than an hour every day.
Have you ever watched a YouTube star’s video and thought, I could’ve done that? Me neither. Out of all the influencer platforms, YouTube strikes me as the most intimidating. But it can also be the most lucrative, with top YouTubers earning well into the six figures from advertising revenue alone. And this pie is only getting expanding: YouTube recently reported that the number of users earning over $100,000 on the platform has increased by more than 40 percent annually; currently, 75 percent more channels have surpassed a million subscribers versus last year.
YouTube also has a more democratic appeal. Unlike Instagram, where the biggest influencers are mainstream megastars in their own right (Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé), YouTube is dominated by homegrown celebrities, such as Jenna Mourey (a.k.a. Jenna Marbles), Mariand Castrejón Castañeda (a.k.a. Yuya, a Mexican beauty vlogger), and a bunch of gamers that I’ve never heard of but have millions of fans. The world’s highest-paid YouTube star is Daniel Middleton, a British 26-year-old who goes by “DanTDM” and gained his fortune (an estimated annual income of $16.5 million, per Forbes) by posting videos of himself playing Minecraft. Last year, he did an international tour that included four sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House.
During the same court battle, Viacom won a court ruling requiring YouTube to hand over 12 terabytes of data detailing the viewing habits of every user who has watched videos on the site. The decision was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called the court ruling "a setback to privacy rights". In June 2010, Viacom's lawsuit against Google was rejected in a summary judgment, with U.S. federal Judge Louis L. Stanton stating that Google was protected by provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Viacom announced its intention to appeal the ruling. On April 5, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated the case, allowing Viacom's lawsuit against Google to be heard in court again. On March 18, 2014, the lawsuit was settled after seven years with an undisclosed agreement.
That kind of growth suggests that something unpredictable and wild is happening: America’s grip on children’s entertainment is coming to an end. ChuChu is but the largest of a new constellation of children’s-media brands on YouTube that is spread out across the world: Little Baby Bum in London, Animaccord Studios in Moscow, Videogyan in Bangalore, Billion Surprise Toys in Dubai, TuTiTu TV in Tel Aviv, and LooLoo Kids in Iași, a Romanian town near the country’s border with Moldova. The new children’s media look nothing like what we adults would have expected. They are exuberant, cheap, weird, and multicultural. YouTube’s content for young kids—what I think of as Toddler YouTube—is a mishmash, a bricolage, a trash fire, an explosion of creativity. It’s a largely unregulated, data-driven grab for toddlers’ attention, and, as we’ve seen with the rest of social media, its ramifications may be deeper and wider than you’d initially think.
There are over a million members of the YouTube Partner Program. According to TubeMogul, in 2013 a pre-roll advertisement on YouTube (one that is shown before the video starts) cost advertisers on average $7.60 per 1000 views. Usually no more than half of eligible videos have a pre-roll advertisement, due to a lack of interested advertisers.
Of course, influencers have their own interests to look out for, too. “The process of creating a brand campaign is holistic, and the cost is not standard,” says Natalie Alzate, the woman behind NataliesOutlet, a YouTube channel with almost 6 million followers. “My manager, agent, and attorney work hard to ensure that each campaign is a success, which is measured by whether the fans respond to it as well they do to non-sponsored content.”
In May 2011, 48 hours of new videos were uploaded to the site every minute, which increased to 60 hours every minute in January 2012, 100 hours every minute in May 2013, 300 hours every minute in November 2014, and 400 hours every minute in February 2017. As of January 2012, the site had 800 million unique users a month. It is estimated that in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000. According to third-party web analytics providers, Alexa and SimilarWeb, YouTube is the second-most visited website in the world, as of December 2016; SimilarWeb also lists YouTube as the top TV and video website globally, attracting more than 15 billion visitors per month. In October 2006, YouTube moved to a new office in San Bruno, California.