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Today’s audiences are watching less television, but that doesn’t mean they’re consuming less content. According to an eMarketer study, U.S. audiences now watch 5.5 hours of digital video every day (up from 21 minutes per day in 2011), much of it on the world’s most popular video platform, YouTube. For years, YouTube Multi-channel networks, or MCNs, have served as the bridge between YouTube content creators (called “YouTubers“) and brands looking to reach social media stars‘ followers. As the YouTube ecosystem expands, however, the biggest YouTube MCNs are changing, evolving, and in some cases, disappearing altogether.
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As YouTube grows, the platform’s top YouTube MCNs have grown and evolved with it. The following is a list of the most successful YouTube MCNs and where they stand today:
Since the YouTube MCN was bought by Disney for $500 million in 2014, Maker Studios has continued to oversee top YouTubers like PewDiePie (who recently launched his own YouTube MCN, Revelmode), produce original content like YouTube Red’s “Scare PewDiePie” series, and collaborate with both Disney’s Marvel and Lucasfilms to promote content for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and other Disney properties (Adweek). One of the largest YouTube MCNs, Maker now partners with over 55,000 YouTubers to attract more than 10 billion monthly views and 650 million subscribers (Maker Studios).
With a network of over 30,000 content creators who reach over 150 million viewers each month, Machinima is the largest gamer- and gaming-focused YouTube MCN in the space today (Piksel). In addition to launching a new media-buying product called Machinima Preferred Media Solutions, Machina recently created Mach-1, an agency devoted entirely to e-sports gaming (Adweek).
BroadbandTV was acquired by RTL Group for $36 million in 2013. Since that time, the 11-year-old YouTube MCN has become the largest network in the world, surpassing giants like Maker Studios and Fullscreen in terms of total unique viewers per month, total video views, and total monthly impressions (14 billion). According to Mashable, BroadbandTV manages over 74,000 content creators who post half a million new videos per month.
In September 2014, Fullscreen was bought by Otter Media, a joint venture between the Chernin Group and AT&T. In recent months, Fullscreen has expanded its services beyond that of a traditional YouTube MCN, producing hundreds of hours of original content across platforms and launching its own streaming subscription service. Today, the MCN claims a network of 70,000 YouTubers like including Rooster Teeth, creators of the internet’s longest-running series, “Red Vs Blue” (Stream Daily).
YouTube’s premier beauty, fashion, and lifestyle MCN, StyleHaul now partners with almost 6,000 content creators to reach 500 million viewers daily (Adweek). Since receiving a $6 million infusion from the RTL group in 2013, StyleHaul has grown to average 2 billion views each month (The Hollywood Reporter).
Founded in 2012, Tastemade has reached the milestone of 100 million monthly users and 1 billion monthly views in a relatively short time. According to Adweek, the YouTube MCN just received $40 million in Series D funding from Goldman Sachs, among others, and now enjoys $80 million in total funding. In addition to managing content creators and producing original content, Tastemade has plans to develop curated subscription boxes, travel and lifestyle products, books, merchandise, and even open restaurants (Entrepreneur).
Since Defy Media emerged from the merger of Alloy Digital and Break Media, the YouTube MCN has bolstered its original content by developing digital video brands like gURL, The Escapist, Clevver TV, and Shut Up! Cartoons. Defy Media now reaches more than 80 million monthly visitors and earns over 750 million monthly unique views (The Video Ink).
One of the first YouTube MCNs to be bought by a traditional media company, AwesomenessTV was purchased by Dreamworks Animation for $33 million in 2013. The network has since gone through a number of ownership changes, with Dreamworks selling a 25% stake in the company to the Hearst Corporation in 2014 and just under a quarter of AwesomenessTV to Verizon in April 2016 (Variety). One of the most successful YouTube MCNs, AwesomenessTV has amassed 160 million subscribers and now boasts nearly a billion monthly video views across platforms (AdExchanger).
Formerly Collective Digital Studio, Studio71 a YouTube multi-channel network owned by German media company ProSiebenSat.1. The network currently works with German digital superstar Flula Borg (Tubefilter), Lilly Singh, Epic Meal Time, and Rhett and Link. According to Digiday, Studio71 did more than 500 branded marketing campaigns last year, accounting for a third of the YouTube MCN’s overall business.
Originally formed as a means to manage top YouTubers and monetize their reach through branded YouTube marketing collaborations and other advertising opportunities, many of today’s biggest YouTube MCNs have evolved into full-scale media companies. Like traditional media corporations, MCNs now own creative properties, video production studios, and the means to distribute products across multiple channels, both on YouTube and beyond (ReelSEO).
Related Post: What Is A YouTube Influencer Agency?
Because YouTube MCNs now manage hundreds or thousands of YouTubers, many content creators and brands are choosing to develop marketing partnerships and pursue monetization opportunities with influencer marketing agencies and platforms instead of signing with an MCN. These firms and companies are adept at partnering companies with the right YouTuber and don’t require content creators to enter into exclusive contracts (as they typically would with a YouTube MCN).