The online video landscape has seen substantial changes in recent years, following the surge of the YouTube MCNs (Multi Channel Networks). Initially simple content aggregators for YouTube channels, these MCNs have grown exponentially, and in March 2014, the top 10 MCNs on YouTube accounted for almost 3 billion video views, in the US alone. This is obviously a huge amount of eyeballs, and these numbers keep on growing.
This did not go unnoticed by the corporate world. In late 2012, Time Warner made a significant investment in Maker Studios, one of YouTube´s first and largest MCNs. In early May 2013 (yes, it’s been that long!) DreamWorks bought AwesomenessTV, which triggered a series of acquisitions, which in turn have pushed the value of YouTube MCNs. Disney’s acquisition of Maker Studios in March 2014 for $500 million was the cherry on top.
Naturally, this all comes down to eyeballs, and YouTube definitely has them. Kids have shifted their entertainment consumption habits and now spend much more time online (preferably on a handheld device). And most of that online time, they spend watching videos on YouTube. Kids have moved from a passive viewership to an active and engaged viewership, in a new world where they can interact in real time with their idols through a plethora of social media, and watch exactly what they want to watch, when they want, where they want. This shift started years ago with the launch of set top boxes; but now, YouTube has become the first choice as an entertainment platform for kids.
As a result, the power balance shifted from the traditional entertainment channel/broadcaster, who told the audience what to watch and when, to the user who navigates through whatever channels he wants to watch, and has its content available on demand, to watch anywhere.
Naturally, with this freedom for the user comes a bigger challenge for content creators. But bigger challenges bring new opportunities. The kids entertainment industry today needs to understand that kids are choosing content that they can relate to over content that has been prepared for them. Forget the big budget productions of online video – kids don’t mind the rough footage, poor editing, appalling lighting or a messy bedroom background. All this feels real to the kids and so they watch it. And share it. And comment on it. And Tweet it. And Snapchat it. And Instagram it. And Facebook it. And so on.
The good news is that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to keeping the audience engaged and coming back for more. As it’s always been, really.
Miguel Sabino is managing director of Portuguese MCN Thumb Media, and one of our pre-MIPJunior 2014 kids entertainment ambassadors. These posts are coordinated by Debbie Macdonald, a children’s media consultant. She was formerly VP, programming director at Nickelodeon UK, having worked in acquisitions at the BBC. You can find her on Twitter here.