Just to put the numbers into perspective, with its recent earnings from entering the online movie rental business, YouTube couldn't even afford one minimum-wage, full-time employee. But it's not a bad start, nonetheless, and the best news may be for the filmmakers themselves.
When YouTube announced the move two weeks ago, we mused over whether or not people would be willing to pay for content, as is always the question. For a relatively quick, quiet test campaign, we would venture that YouTube certainly outpaced Newsday, with its 35 online subscribers.
...A Whpoping $10,709.16The initial test, which ran for a brief 10 days, raked in $10,709.16 according to the New York Times' Bits Blog. It featured five independent films pulled from the ranks of Sundance Film Festival, which received 2,684 views at $3.99 a piece.
The 10-day test run was just the beginning, YouTube said on its blog, as the company will start to offer videos for rent "across different industries, including health and education ... in the weeks ahead."
According to the company's original announcement, content partners "can decide the price of their videos and the rental duration; they can decide when and where their content is available; and they can keep 100% of their rights." This led us, of course, to wonder how much of a cut YouTube takes from the deal?
While $10,000 is chump change for a company like Google-owned YouTube, that, or even one-fifth, is anything but for the independent filmmaker - especially for a distribution deal that retains all of your rights and decision-making abilities.
YouTube Gets Into the Distribution BusinessWe spoke with Chris Dale, a spokesman for YouTube, and he told us that he couldn't confirm the exact details of the revenue split, but would say that the content provided kept anywhere from 51% of the revenue to more than that. To quote him directly, he said that "the majority of the revenue share goes to the content partner."
While that may make it sound potentially less appealing, he did point out that this is an opportunity for distribution, on the filmmakers terms - something most filmmakers are unlikely to run across during an entire career.
"In 2009, out of 9,000 films sent to Sundance, only 53 got distribution deals," Dale said. "That tops out at only a .6% success rate. Given that, it's important for filmmakers to have other options at their fingertips."
We tend to agree. He said that the filmmaker can decide on the pricing, ranging anywhere from 99 cents to around $20, but again wouldn't confirm anything further on the split. The deal gives filmmakers a reputable locale to offer their product and a potential for income as well as exposure. We think this could provide an interesting outlet for smaller filmmakers who can't afford the expenses of DVD distribution deals. It also puts YouTube in a good spot, both providing these filmmakers with an outlet, as they've always done, while providing them a source of income.