Hollywood has yet to produce a top draw among YouTube’s inaugural programming partners, but there’s probably enough traction for some to command a second round of funding from Google, which is poised to drop its financial support for as many as 70% of YouTube’s official channels.
YouTube analytics firm ChannelMeter has provided Variety with a snapshot of key metrics for more than 100 of the channels from launch through October, including total views and subscribers.
But while the stats may be the closest to getting the equivalent of a Nielsen rating for the YouTube channels, they’re not the only variables that will decide their fate. YouTube has a range of engagement metrics it will use to get a sense of how the channels are doing, including time spent watching per video. Then there are extrinsic factors to weigh like the increasing group of channels that are attracting funding from advertisers or venture capital firms to supplement the low seven-figure sums YouTube is handing out per year.
Withdrawal of YouTube funding does not amount to a cancelation because channels can continue on the platform on their own.
The entertainment business was well represented among those behind the first batch of channels on YouTube. That made the talent agencies a first stop in their pursuit of premium content that could help reposition the site as more than just a place for home videos. Many showbizzers from celebrities to production companies responded.
Hollywood came in with a distinct disadvantage reflected in the ChannelMeter stats: The upper ranks of the channels that have generated the most views are largely dominated by companies that have sprouted on digital platforms going back several years. To wit, Internet pioneer Mondo Media, which features young-skewing comedic animation, is far and away the most viewed channel, with 1.3 billion views — approximately double that of second-ranked Howcast, a hub for how-to videos.
The rest of the top 20 in total videos viewed is also filled with online extensions of global brands such as third-ranked Red Bull, which scored a hit last month with its live streaming of daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s space jump. Other top-ranking channels include familiar names like WWE, Motor Trend and the Onion.
Still lower in the top 20 are brands that may be unknown offline but are getting popular online. A few companies have ownership of more than one of the top 20 channels, including Vice Media, which has a self-branded channel and a music-only channel, Noisey. Alloy Digital owns ShutUp Cartoons and Clevver News.
The longer a YouTube channel has been in operation, the more viewing it has accrued. However, there are plenty of telling exceptions for channels that are either overachieving given how little time they’ve been in circulation or lagging despite having had a headstart on their competition.
The most-viewed channel with a Hollywood connection is producer Brian Robbins’ AwesomenessTV at No. 19. With an emphasis on comedy, music and sports programming aimed at the teen and tween market, AwesomenessTV has burst out of the gate with enough force to already have attracted a $3.5 million round of funding from venture capital firms including MK Capital in August.
AwesomenessTV should have no problem making the cut at YouTube considering it has managed to rank that high despite having launched in late June, months after other entertainment brands that are much further down the ranking. Take Thrash Lab, a channel with unscripted series that launched in May from Ashton Kutcher’s shingle, Katalyst Media, that comes in 77th.
There are a few entries that rely on scripted programming that are performing respectably, especially considering conventional narrative programming isn’t a proven commodity on YouTube. Yet Blackbox TV, a hub for horror and sci-fi from “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker, comes in at 33th. Just behind it in 39th is Wigs, a femme-centric scripted brand steered by filmmakers Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia that has attracted Hollywood-bred talent on both sides of the camera.
Comedy channels that blend Hollywood auspices and Internet-native phenomena can also score. Yomyomf, a channel from director Justin Lin (“The Fast and the Furious”) that features YouTube stars including Ryan Higa, comes in at 25th. Four places behind Yomyomf is Geek and Sundry, which features TV/YouTube crossover star Felicia Day.
The YouTube channels drew headlines when first announced last October in part due to the participation of a slew of celebrities fronting channels of their own. While many of those channels are low on the Channel Meter ranking, that may be less indicative of the questionable appeal of celebrities on YouTube than of the fact that many of them launched relatively late in the year.
Channels fronted by Rainn Wilson, Amy Poehler and Deepak Chopra have yet to pop, though none of them launched until the summer and they may still need time to find their sea legs. Whether YouTube will see it the same way remains to be seen.
One exception is NuevOn, a Hispanic-targeted network featuring Sofia Vergara that comes in at No. 23. The emphasis on unscripted comedy is clearly resonating in a category with multiple ventures going after the Latino audience with either Spanish or bilingual content.
NuevOn is one of three channels from Electus, the IAC-backed studio led by Ben Silverman, who is also seeing traction for Loud, a channel featuring unscripted and comedy series, at No. 44. Not faring as well is the company’s third channel, Hungry, a food channel at 93rd. Electus hired veteran TV executive Bruce Seidel from Food Network in January to oversee Hungry.
Hungry is an example of a channel serving up programming in a crowded area among the YouTube channels. TheStylish, from production company Magical Elves, is sunk at 97th. Fitness channel 3V, from BermanBraun, is mired in 104th place.
Clearly, female-targeted categories — food, fashion, fitness — aren’t faring as well as male-centric categories like automotive and sports. As YouTube figures out which channels stay or go, it may not simply drop networks with weak numbers but elect to keep one entrant from even slower-performing categories that could see a boost without direct competition.
However, some of the biggest production companies in entertainment are holding their own in competitive categories. FremantleMedia’s Pet Collective is doing OK, in at 42rd, while Befit, a fitness channel from Lionsgate, is sticking it out at 51st.
Entertainment news is also a potent YouTube channel category: Finishing 10th and 11th were Young Hollywood, a hub for celebrity interviews, and ENTV, which is owned by Variety parent company Penske Media Corp.