The past year has been filled with anxiety and volatility when it comes to the YouTube network space. Many have questioned the health of multichannel networks (MCN) while complaining about lousy CPMs and shaky business models.
So it might be surprising to hear about one MCN rapidly expanding across the globe—while launching lots of new shows and doing some big hiring. But that's what's happening with the beauty and fashioned-focused StyleHaul.
The company recently nabbed James Stafford, formerly head of branded content for YouTube Europe, to serve as vp of sales for the recently launched StyleHaul UK. StyleHaul has also dialed up its European talent roster, inking deals with the agency Gleam Futures as well as with the video blogs BeautyCrush, MarcusButlerTV, Alfie aka PointlessBlog, CasperLee and ThatcherJoe.
Of course, it helps to be backed by nearly $17 million in venture funding, including $6 million last May from the European TV and Radio firm RTL Group. But StyleHaul, which now manages 3,700 channels in over 60 countries, may have a unique advantage. Its content—often in the form of instructional beauty and shopping content—is tailor made for branded entertainment, i.e. YouTube's version of native advertising.
According to chief revenue officer Alison Kennedy, 75 percent of the company's new ad revenue is coming from content marketing. "We've totally flipped the model," she said. "Content marketing and what we’re doing in that space is really resonating with clients right now."
This started a few years ago as a trend among fashion bloggers endorsing brand products. "We can do it in a video platform, and we're able to amplify it pretty dramatically socially and through distribution," said Kennedy. "That has marketers sitting up. It's relative easy for us to shift those budgets. Our subject matter makes it easier, and it really lends itself to video."
This past fall Macy's also tapped into StyleHaul's network of creators, with one clip edging toward 300,000 views on YouTube. The videos look like any other clips these young vloggers produce but feature Macy's branding and products. "These are true native ads," said Kennedy. "And the engagement numbers we’re seeing are off the charts. In some cases, 30 to 40 percent of people are sharing or commenting.
Kennedy said a key next step is for StyleHaul to conduct research on the impact of branded entertainment on the network, which boasts over 115 million mostly millennial subscribers.
Meanwhile, even as branded content emerges as the company's core revenue driver, StyleHaul is pushing into original scripted content. The company recently signed a 10-series, two-year deal with Freemantle. The first show to result from that pact is The Crew, a U.K. series that went live earlier this month.
"We think there is such a big opportunity in the U.K.," said Kennedy. "Content marketing in Europe is not booming yet. And there's massive gap between the five biggest stars in beauty and fashion and the rest."