Reading in the Business of Online Video blog earlier in the week (the blog of StreamingMedia.com) I came across an entry Video Content Creators Like Rocketboom Can’t Survive On Advertising, which kind of reflected some of my own thinking.
Rocketboom should serve as a wake-up call to those who think that simply having traffic equals revenue and a sustainable, growing business model. Or to those that think online video advertising alone is going to generate a lot of revenue in today’s market.
Rocketboom I should point out is one of the “success stories” of Internet video, with an average of around 250-300,000 downloads per show and revenue from advertising of $210,000 in 2006 according to co-founder Andrew Baron. Recently they’ve introduced a $3000 per episode sponsorship deal, with YouTube taking up the first sponsorship. Now, frankly $210,000 a year, spread over the co-founder, presenter and presumably cameraman/editor (the latter two probably part time) is a reasonable middle-class income, but according to Dan Rayburn that isn’t enough.
Well, if Rocketboom is a success story, what about the other headline shows in this consumer generated video world? Goodnight Burbank is still without a major sponsor, although it has been a useful platform for its participants to be noticed and get “better” offers. (Rumor is that creator Hayden Black is working with HBO on a project not yet officially announced). This is a pretty common trend, where similarly Mr Deitycreator Brian Dalton is in negotiations with “a big company” for the second season of 10 episodes.
That’s one benefit of getting exposure, but how have some other high profile projects faired? Well Scott Kirsner gave some interesting statistics in a presentation at the Apple Store in San Francisco last Tuesday (during WWDC week).
Evolution of Dance has had 50 million views to date and generated no revenue for its creator.
Extreme Coke and Mentos Experiments has had 7.5 million views and generated $35,000 in shared revenue from the time they’ve had the videos on Revver. That’s well under half a cent per viewer.
The very clever Matrix for Real has managed 5.25 million views and made $26,000 from advertising revenue share at Metacafe. That’s about the same half-cent-per-viewer.
405 The Movie was before the modern video sharing era and the 5.3 million views of that short got the young men involved started in a visual effects career, but no direct revenue.
The ever-funny and ever-baffling Ask an Ninja made just $20,000 in shared advertising revenue from Revver in 2006 across the more than 20 episodes they created.
Scott mentions The Landlord, a program I’m not familiar with, that has amassed an incredible 34 million views with no apparent revenue.
And so it goes. Now these are short pieces, all under 10 minutes so the “35c per viewer” guideline that network likes to work on for advertising revenue doesn’t apply, but surely they’re worth something? If it’s worth watching isn’t it worth a penny to the creator? If it’s not, why would you bother to watch it?
Of course, we don’t currently have a mechanism for that type of micropayment and attempts in the past have been anything but easy (RIP BitPass). But if we are to make a business out of new media then revenue has to flow to the creators. Let’s run those shows again, at just a penny a view:
Evolution of Dance $500,000
Extreme Coke and Mentos Experiments $75,000
Matrix for Real $52,500
405 The Movie $53,000
Mr Deity with an average of 500,000 viewers per episode would bring in $5,000 per episode for what takes Brian Dalton “four days work” (according to an Interview on the Digital Production BuZZ). Of course his co-stars deserve a share of that, but it’s still likely to be a reasonable return on the time invested. Frankly, I’d be happy to pay 5c or 10c per episode to download and own (they’re worth watching more than once). Extrapolate the revenue accordingly and a decent income is possible. (At 5c, $250,000 gross for 40 days work is decent.)
But it’s not happening and great talent has to either lose control of their career by turning their fame into a traditional media deal, or continue to have creative freedom and control and make a living doing something else.
If producers and performers can’t get a return on their effort, that at least affords them a living wage, there is no revolution here folks. There a just a lot of very talented people with a very public hobby.