The highest-earning YouTuber this year is once again Ryan Kaji, the 8-year-old star of the Ryan’s World channel who’s the main talent for a small media empire that pulled in an estimated $26 million.
Ryan and his family’s 28-employee production company, Sunlight Entertainment, also topped Forbes’ list last year with $22 million in estimated earnings. The company’s gross income for the most recent 12-month period was roughly double that of PewDiePie, the No. 1 most-subscribed YouTuber and most-viewed creator on the platform for 2019. PewDiePie, who has announced that he will go on hiatus next year, is tied with fellow YouTube gamer Markiplier at No. 7 on Forbes’ list, both with an estimated take of $13 million.
Sunlight Entertainment, run by Ryan’s parents Loann and Shion Kaji, currently manages nine YouTube channels: Ryan’s World, Ryan’s World Español, Ryan’s World in Japanese, EK Doodles, Ryan’s Family Review, Vtubers, Combo Panda, Gus the Gummy Gator and The Studio Space. Ryan’s channels have received over 41 billion views to date and amassed over 31 million subscribers. Ryan and his family reside in Texas.
Ryan’s World launched in 2015 as a toy-unboxing channel called Ryan Toys Review and has consistently ranked among the most popular channels on YouTube. In 2017, Ryan and his family inked a deal with digital children’s media startup Pocket.watch, which landed a deal with Nickelodeon for TV show “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate” and has produced a line of Ryan’s World merchandise.
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The revenue increase for Ryan’s World comes as YouTube gets ready to implement changes to how it treats kids’ content starting in January 2020. Under YouTube’s $170 million settlement with the FTC and the New York Attorney General for alleged violations of the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), YouTube among other things will no longer allow targeted advertising in videos directed at kids under 13 and will disable features like comments and notifications for channels aimed at children. Chris M. Williams, founder and CEO of Pocket.watch, said his company has the ability to sell COPPA-compliant, contextually based advertising placed on channels including Ryan’s World, and added that Pocket.watch has diversified the revenue streams for its affiliated creators. “We are a very good partner for our creator partners – we can provide advertising to our partners that YouTube can’t anymore,” he told Variety.
Also ranking high on Forbes’ list of top YouTube earners for 2019 are Dude Perfect, the trick-shot specialists affiliated with Whistle, who pulled in $20 million; Anastasia Radzinskaya, a 5-year-old Russian-American girl whose family operates several YouTube channels ($18 million); Rhett and Link, hosts of “Good Mythical Morning” ($17.5 million); and makeup artist Jeffree Star ($17 million).
Rounding out the Forbes top 10 YouTube earnings list are: Preston ($14 million); Markiplier ($13 million); PewDiePie ($13 million); DanTDM ($12 million); and VanossGaming ($11.5 million).
According to Forbes, the earnings estimates for YouTubers factor in advertising and sponsorships, merchandise sales, tour income and other revenue sources. The figures are pretax and do not include fees for agents, managers or lawyers. Third-party data sources the publication uses to determine the figures include Captiv8, SocialBlade and Pollstar.