Maker Studios is the fifth most popular YouTube partner in the U.S., according to statistics reported today by Nielsen. Maker Studios models itself on Hollywood movie studios, except it produces content for YouTube instead of the Big Screen. It's a great concept, but unfortunately low-brow fare like William The Psychic isn't going to help YouTube transition to professional content.
Maker Studios pulled in 9.7 million unique U.S. viewers in May, averaging nearly ten streams per viewer. Cofounder Danny Zappin told FastCompany earlier this month that Maker Studios aims to build "a sustainable new kind of studio model for short-form content."
The company has 200 employees and a 20,000-square-foot studio lot, which Zappin described as "somewhere in the middle between a random few cameras in an apartment, and a giant studio." The business model is fairly simple: Maker Studios recruits "talent" and gives them the resources to produce a YouTube show. In return, Maker gets a portion of the ad revenue generated on YouTube.
Maker Studios has over 500 channels, many of them home to aspiring YouTube stars. One of its established stars is Ray William Johnson, who has 5.4 million YouTube subscribers. Johnson's show is like an 'America's Funniest Home Video' for viral YouTube videos. In every episode, the gregarious host with Bart Simpson hair commentates over videos such as 'How To Eat a Fly With a Straw' and 'Making The Bus Monitor Cry' (a sickening video showing school kids bullying a grandmother).
The Moms View is another Maker Studios production. This one is like Oprah for YouTube, with three attractive moms doing makeovers, book reviews and other content that supposedly appeals to mainstream moms.
Tutele is a popular Maker Studios channel that produces sketches and entertainment in both English and Spanish, such as a skit called William The Psychic. Now I may be missing some cultural references, but William The Psychic is just bad content. Or maybe it will become a cult show, in a 'it's so bad, it's good' way. Who knows...
There's no doubt that Maker Studios is a success so far, coming in fifth in Nielsen's ranking of YouTube corporate partners. But I came away less than impressed with the quality of Maker's content, which is lowest common denominator stuff.
Let's quickly compare Maker Studio to Machinima, which was third in Nielsen's list. Machinima is targeted at gamers and features a wide range of programming for that audience - tips and tricks videos, gaming news shows and original TV-style programming like the drama show Bite Me. Machinima may target a young audience, but it's never juvenile and unoriginal like some of the Maker Studios content I viewed today.
Maker shows like Ray William Johnson and The Moms View is the type of content I go out of my way to avoid on TV. This isn't the future of television, it's the worst aspects of day-time TV rehashed for YouTube. That surely isn't what YouTube wants to portray to advertisers, as it tries to compete with the big TV networks.