But recent research has painted another picture. Scoring a place in the top 3 percent of most-viewed channels could bring in ad revenues of just $16,800 per year, according to analysis for Bloomberg News by Mathias Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Offenburg, Germany. If you quit your job, that's barely enough to break through the poverty line.
The 1990s and 2000s saw the growth of cable TV channels targeted at children. With the rise of ubiquitous merchandising deals and niche content, powerful American media companies such as Disney, Turner, and Viacom figured out how to make money off young kids. They created, respectively, the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Network, and, of course, Nickelodeon, which was the most watched cable channel during traditional television’s peak year, 2009–10 (Nielsen’s measurement period starts and ends in September). Since then, however, little kids have watched less and less television; as of last spring, ratings in 2018 were down a full 20 percent from just last year. As analysts like to put it, the industry is in free fall. The cause is obvious: More and more kids are watching videos online.
YouTube earns advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Premium, a subscription service offering ad-free access to the website and access to exclusive content made in partnership with existing users.