Does YouTube Bring In Enough Ad Dollars for Top Channels?

By Devon Glenn 

Millions of video views do not necessarily equal millions of dollars on YouTube, the video-sharing site where professional entertainers share the screen with amateur filmmakers.

While the ads embedded into the videos undoubtedly bring in revenue for the video creators who have partnered with YouTube, multichannel networks and top performers are now saying that those advertising dollars are not keeping pace with their video views.

According to Peter Kafka at AllThingsD:

The dollars programmers earn from YouTube’s ad-selling efforts range widely. But many big publishers say that after YouTube takes its 45 percent cut of the ads it sells, they frequently end up keeping about $2.50 for every 1,000 views their clips generate — that is, if their video generates a million views, they get $2,500. Other publishers say their split can be as high as $10 per 1,000.

The dollars amounts do seem to vary widely. On the low end of the spectrum are amateur video creators like Rob Shap, whose hit video “Bird Face” netted $800 for 2.3 million views in October 2012.

In that same month, a study by the research firm OpenSlate revealed that the top 1,000 channels on YouTube netted an average of $23,000 per month, or  $276,000 per year. These channels brought in a combined 11.3 billion monthly views, 30,000 monthly videos, and 462 million subscribers.

The highest-paid YouTube stars are adding new revenue streams such as live events, merchandising, and sponsorships or product placement within their videos.

They also spend time and money promoting themselves on other networks, such as Facebook.

Even television veterans who are starting to adopt YouTube as a creative platform say it doesn’t perform well enough to stand on its own.

Comedy Central star Kyle Dunnigan, whose channel has more than 20,000 subscribers and over 6.8 million views, described the money he earns from his YouTube channel as “a really great bonus. It’s not a ton of money,” he said in a previous interview, “but it’s paying some bills.”

Bryan Singer, a “Gilmore Girls” alumnus and the creator of the YouTube series H+, runs a successful channel with more than 156,000 subscribers and over 8.8 million views to date. In August 2012, he predicted the ad spend on YouTube would one day rival television. Does it right now? “Definitely not,” he said at the time. “But I will say that it is growing.”

YouTube is continuously working on improving the platform. In November, the company applied its newly optimized advertising settings to all monetized videos, even those that were uploaded before the settings had changed, to bring in more money for its partners.

After an experiment with YouTube Rentals, the company is also expected to roll out a paid subscription option for partners in the second quarter of 2013.