Content market launched inaugural Digital Fronts event showcasing online content.
Singer Chester See, child-friendly gamer Stampylonghead, alternative newsreader Ana Kasparian and comedy duo Rhett Mclaughlin and Link Neal of Rhett & Link fame were among the YouTube stars hitting the Palais des Festivals in Cannes this week for MIPTV’s inaugural Digital Fronts event showcasing popular online content.
To many people over 40 sitting in the Palais’ Grand Auditorium these names meant nothing, even though between them they have generated more than one billion Internet views.
René Rechtman, president of international at LA-based online content hub Maker Studios, one of the companies fronting the event, said there had been “a fundamental shift” in the way so-called “millennials” – people born from the late 1980s to early 2000s – consumed, interacted, and created content.
“YouTube is now the second biggest search engine, 6 billion hours of video are watched every month and a lot of that is happening over a mobile device,” said Rechtman.
“It’s driven by 2.5 billion people under 34, influencing a trillion (dollars) of spend. It’s a new generation, a gap we haven’t seen before, a fundamental gap between what we used to do and what is going on.”
“They watch content on whatever device they want, whatever they want and they don’t use the big screen as the first screen, they use the thing in their pocket… that’s their first screen. All other screens are just part of the experience. They watch significantly less TV than we do and while they do it they’re multi-tasking,” he continued.
Multichannel network Maker, which generates some 4.5 billion views a month and has 340 million subscribers spread over some 55,000 YouTube channels, is currently in the process of being acquired by Disney for more than $500m.
Maker success stories, British Joseph Garrett, creator of the children’s online character Stampylonghead , and American actor-singer-content producer Chester See, who clocks up 20 million views a month on his dedicated YouTube channel, and has 215,000 Twitter followers and 148,000 Instagram followers came on stage to recount their experiences working on the web.
“Look at the numbers here, he is bigger than some household names,” said Rechtman of See, who first started posting videos of himself singing his own compositions in 2007 as a means to get feedback. He said advertising was not the only way to monetise content.
“Ads aren’t the most important source of revenue. Once you’ve built up enough of an audience there are so many ancillary revenue streams you can create. It’s extremely powerful to have that level of engagement with the audience. There are consumer products you can sell… there are a number of ways you can monetise the videos,” commented See, who began his entertainment career on the Disney Channel show Disney 365.
Garrett’s Stampylonghead channel, revolving around daily, commentated videos of him playing child-friendly computer games like Minecraft alongside an animated character called Mr Stampy Cat, currently has 2.2 million subscribers and receives 160 million views a month.
Garrett revealed he was a one-man band working from his bedroom.
“It’s still just me, all the planning, any scripting is just me. I record it, I edit it, I upload it. The business side of things is now with Maker but the production side is me… it’s the classic image of the YouTuber in the bedroom with a microphone,” said Garrett.
Earlier in the day, YouTube gave its own presentation featuring comedians Rhett & Link , Kasparian, a presenter on the renegade US news channel The Young Turks and British twin brothers Finn and Jack Harries, creators of the travel-focused Jacksgap, inspired by their gap years between school and university.
North Carolina-born Mclaughlin and Neal, who call themselves “internetainers”, have notched up 250 million views with their zany videos and daily shows such as Good Mythical Morning, most of it financed through deals with brands.
The pair explained how they managed to work with brands without compromising their oddball humour or alienating their fans to monetise their content.
“We fund our content through brand integrations, we actually prefer that and over the years by doing that a lot we’ve managed to have a conversation with our audience to help them understand that brands fuel our content and allow us to create things for them that otherwise we couldn’t create,” commented Neal.
Other companies presenting at the inaugural Digital Fronts event included French platform Dailymotion, youth-focused digital network Vice and half a dozen online content production houses including Canadian Smokebomb Entertainment, American Vuguru and the UK’s Bigballs Films.
It remains to be seen whether other traditional media companies attempt to jump on the YouTube bandwagon like Disney but Rechtman warned the MIPTV audience that they ignored what was going on in the digital space at their peril.
“It seems like those of us who have been around for a while are neglecting what is going,” he said “We cannot neglect that… We had the newspapers which neglected what happened, the music industry which neglected what happened. We cannot do the same. We need to embrace the change.”