Lessons learned from YouTube's $300M "Original Channel" fund

Hank was one of the recipients of the YouTube $300M "Original Channel" fund, and recounts some of his lessons learned:

* Spending more money to produce the same number of minutes of content does not increase viewership. Online video isn’t about how good it looks, it’s about how good it is.

* People who make online video are much better at making online video than people who make TV shows. This probably seems obvious to you (it certainly is to me) but it apparently was not obvious to the people originally distributing this money.

* When advertising agencies tell you they want something (higher quality content, long-form content, specific demographics, lean-back content, stuff that looks like tv) it’s not our job to attempt to deliver those things. In a world where the user really does get to choose, the content created to satisfy the needs and wants of viewers (not advertisers) will always reign supreme (thankfully.)

There's lots more there, but the tl;dr up there really nails it, and seems broadly applicable to other types of online creative endeavors.

Lessons Learned from YouTube’s $300M Hole (via Wil Wheaton)


  1. If a big budget was a suitable replacement for a decent script, Prometheus wouldn’t have been such a crushing disappointment. Yes, I am bitter.

    Roll on Video Games High School Season 2 and more Overdrift from the Duncan Brothers.

  2. Speaking as someone who’s been in the youtube space both as an independent and in the premium channels, I found the “lessons learned” bit kinda underwhelming. While I agree whole heartedly that advertising driven programming doesn’t work in the infinite entertainment expanse that is the internet, the budgetary implications of the experiment were much deeper and more profound than “big budget doesn’t guarantee anything.”

    Budgets for any form of scripted or half-way compelling independent web content that isn’t just someone yammering into webcam about their day, are going to balloon in the next several years, because they are simply unsustainable in the current model. Making something like VGHS takes tons of people weeks of full time work, and that’s just principle production. Either budgets go up to provide a sustainable living (and I do mean sustainable not “sustainable” as a stand in for “wealthy”, everyone on these shows works well, well, well below even the lowest acceptable TV/film union rates) or web content becomes a ghetto of vloggers and cheaply produced make-up tutorials.To wit: Video Game High School and it’s Season 2, are AMAZING, but they are essentially the huge budget blockbuster productions of YouTube. Season 2 of VGHS is coming in at around $800k for about 90 minutes if I recall correctly. While that budget is incredibly low by Hollywood/TV standards, it is astronomical by YouTube standards, and astronomical compared to the per-minute budgets YouTube was aiming for in this experiment. 

    Also, euansmith, Overdrift is perhaps one of the finest examples of internet comedy ever made. I salute you. 

  3. If I could get YouTube to give me money, I would use it to buy 1) better video cameras; 2) better sound recording equipment; and 3) a better film editing program.  But then, I would just use my new, better, equipment to make more YouTube videos of my friend playing his electric ukulele.  On my YouTube channel, I have, at this point, over six-hundred cheaply made videos of my friend playing his electric ukulele.  The problem is, of course, that people who enjoy watching a video of electric ukulele music are few, and far between.  To get the word out to those who care, I need publicity.  For YouTube to give me publicity, YouTube wants ME to give THEM money.  So YouTube is not going to give me money (my content is too off beat… so to speak), and I am not going to give YouTube money (I have no disposable cash).  I will go on making my cheapo YouTube videos because it is fun (in, and of, itself).  I think that is what YouTube is for: Videos made by people to entertain themselves, which other people may also like, or maybe not like, regardless.  Some YouTube videos have mass appeal, and some YouTube videos show a guy playing the electric ukulele.  As long as there is room for both, I am happy.

Comments are closed.