Five years on, ChuChu TV is a fast-growing threat to traditional competitors, from Sesame Street to Disney to Nickelodeon. With all its decades of episodes, well-known characters, and worldwide brand recognition, Sesame Street has more than 5 billion views on YouTube. That’s impressive, but ChuChu has more than 19 billion. Sesame Street’s main feed has 4 million subscribers; the original ChuChu TV channel has 19 million—placing it among the top 25 most watched YouTube channels in the world, according to the social-media-tracking site Social Blade—and its subsidiary channels (primarily ChuChu TV Surprise Eggs Toys and ChuChu TV Español) have another 10 million.
The world of YouTube is vastly different from the world of broadcast television. While broadcasters in the United States and abroad are bound by rules, and the threat of punishment for breaking those rules, far fewer such regulations apply to the creators of YouTube content, or to YouTube itself. YouTube’s default position is that no one under 13 is watching videos on its site—because that’s the minimum age allowed under its terms of service. In addition to its main site, however, the company has developed an app called YouTube Kids. Like normal YouTube, it plays videos, but the design and content are specifically made for parents and children. It’s very good. It draws on the expertise of well-established children’s-media companies. Parents can restrict their children’s viewing in a multitude of ways, such as allowing access only to content handpicked by PBS Kids. But here’s the problem: Just a small fraction of YouTube’s 1.9 billion monthly viewers use it. (YouTube Kids is not available in as many countries as normal YouTube is.)
Until last month, pretty much any random person could enable the “monetization” setting on their YouTube account and get ads on their videos, allowing them to earn a fraction of a cent for every time a person viewed or clicked on their content. That all changed in January, however, when Google (YouTube’s owner) announced new standards to merit those ads. Now, to be accepted into the “YouTube Partner Program” and monetize your channel, you need a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch-time over the past 12 months; your videos will also be more closely monitored for inappropriate content. Meanwhile, YouTube also promised that members of “Google Preferred” — a vaunted group of popular channels that make up YouTube’s top 5 percent, and command higher ad dollars because of it — will be more carefully vetted. (These shifts followed the Logan Paul controversy, as well as a brouhaha about ads running on unsavory content, such as sexually explicit or extremist videos.)
While not directly related to YouTube, you can use your YouTube platform to build up a following and reputation, and eventually direct your viewers to other paid platforms, like Yondo. This platform allows you to create your own kind of video store, where you can sell special videos (either on a subscription basis or pay-per-view). And, the best part? You can set your own price.
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.
Absent substantive oversight by regulators, in the late 1960s the calls for change entered a new, more creative phase. A group calling itself Action for Children’s Television began advocating for specific changes to programming for young kids. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was formed in 1968 with government dollars. At the same time, Children’s Television Workshop began producing Sesame Street, and the forerunner to PBS, National Educational Television, began distributing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. These shows were tremendously successful in creating genuinely educational television. By the time children’s programming got swept up into the growing cable industry, the big channels had learned a lot from the public model, which they incorporated into shows such as Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues.
Chu Chu loved it. “She wanted me to repeat it again and again,” Chandar recalls. Which gave him an idea: “If she is going to like it, the kids around the world should like it.” He created a YouTube channel and uploaded the video. In a few weeks, it had 300,000 views. He made and uploaded another video, based on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and it took off. After posting just two videos, he had 5,000 subscribers to his channel. Someone from YouTube reached out and, as Chandar remembers it, said, “You guys are doing some magic with your content.” So Chandar and several of his friends formed a company in Chennai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, from the bones of an IT business they’d run. They hired a few animators and started putting out a video a month.
7. Turn to crowdfunding: There are two primary types of crowdfunding: recurring and project-based. Recurring crowdfunding lets contributors pay an amount they specify on a regular schedule. You’d want to maximize this type of funding in order to turn a channel into a substantial income stream. Incentives such as one-on-one video chats, private classes or merchandise can entice viewers to sign up.
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According to ChuChu, its two largest markets are the United States and India, which together generate about one-third of its views. But each month, tens of millions of views also pour in from the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and all over Asia and Africa. Roughly 20 million times a day, a caretaker somewhere on Earth fires up YouTube and plays a ChuChu video. What began as a lark has grown into something very, very big, inflating the company’s ambitions. “We want to be the next Disney,” Chandar told me.