Media: One Source or Many?
Time was, everyone had a TV and got some channels and all watched the same things together. Or, you know, a slightly more complicated version of that sentiment. Then along came cable, and who had what channels got fractured further and further. Sometimes you could tailor what you wanted (like adding premium channels, or sports channels), sometimes there were just set packages of channels – or even gigantic access with hundreds of channels.
Along came the Internet and streaming services, and it was great – with one or two of these, we could cover most of the television we wanted to watch. Or at least, as much (and more) television as we could fit into our lives! As Holly discussed recently, the different networks and channels are all trying to forage out into their own streaming apps, with some never having really given access to Hulu or Netflix, and others dropping access. So once upon a time, you just went to your TV and surfed channels. Then we got one subscription service that had them all, dropped cable, and now they’re splintering out. We’ve gone from having one point of access to many, where I had originally been predicting years ago that we would be moving more and more to these large subscription services.
But hey, the other reason we dropped cable was because the shows and channels we watch most regularly are actually YouTube channels. Independent creators, striking out on their own, making a go of it on this amazing online platform. One stop shop for all your video needs, where before videos and the sorts of things that became YouTube were scattered across the Internet. At least that won’t change, right?
Yeah, you guessed it, wrong.
In the last week or two, not one, not two, but three of our favorite channels have been advertising their new content on paid subscription services outside of YouTube. Since we’ve already talked about the TV angle on this, which has been happening for much longer really, let’s take a minute to look at this YouTube/online video move…
Rhett & Link’s Buddy System – YouTube Red
Not the first channel we follow to have a show on YouTube Red, but still, with the announcement right around their 1000th episode, Rhett and Link have really been talking about this show.
If you don’t know, YouTube Red is YouTube’s paid subscription service, and also their production studio of sorts. So far at least, the goal is that it is all-new, higher-budget shows from existing YouTube creators, with that production funding coming from YouTube. So like, when Rhett and Link were discussing the show, they were answering the question “why are you putting it on YouTube Red instead of making it free” by saying that it was a joint venture with YouTube Red, that it was conceived of and always planned as a show for that network.
And honestly, so far I’ve been fine with YouTube Red. There hasn’t been any new show popping up that has made us really want to add the service, and the creators are still producing the content we do like and watch. One advantage is that it is all still on the YouTube platform – indeed, Buddy System is on their main channel, so you don’t have to go far to find it! YouTube Red does also have some other perks, like ad-free YouTube, and a subscription to Google Play Music. If we were on Android devices instead of Apple, we might very well have a YouTube Red subscription right now, as adding the music component – a whole different conversation when it comes to subscription services! – would make the value of YouTube Red worth it.
YouTube Red like most things has a free month to try it out, and is $9.99 after that it looks like.
Celebs React – Fullscreen
Fine Brothers Entertainment, famously the attempted-owners of the concept of “reacting” to something in video form, have done a lot of different video types, and have been involved in TV projects and such as well. I mean, I guess I should have mentioned that Rhett and Link have been as well (Chuck Testa still being my favorite).
The Fine Bros open their trailer with a full-screen explanation, attempting to accomplish I suppose what a 20-minute frank discussion from Rhett and Link accomplished. The same explanation was given: to fund this show, making it full TV-episode length (and with celebrities!), they needed more money, and thus a production partner. And so they joined with…
This is where I went, dang it, if it had been YouTube Red we might be talking. However, because this is kind of a show they’ve done before (they’ve had a few chances to do so in the past), and it’s in the style of all their other shows (if a sort of version where they’re combining all their shows into one), I could see how it might not have met the criteria for a YouTube Red show. However, it’s a service which otherwise I would have nothing to watch, at least not that I know of. And, the Fine Bros are going to be releasing part of the episodes on their channel, so… we’ll just watch those.
Fullscreen seems to have a free month as well, and then it’s $4.99.
TableTop – Alpha
Then a few days ago I saw, lo and behold! Finally! TableTop season 4 is coming! After the rousing success of their Kickstarter to get season 3 off the ground, it’s been quite a wait to get to this 4th season. At least we’ll definitely be able to…
Watch it on YouTube…
Wait, what? On Alpha?
I’d at least heard of Fullscreen before. No such luck with Alpha. However, a moment’s look and I realized why. Alpha appears to be a joint venture between Geek & Sundry and Nerdist (and maybe Legendary Pictures?), two geeky (nerdy) media companies that sprouted up together on YouTube a few years back, headed by Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and Chris Hardwick. As those three have gotten bigger and more successful, others have increasingly taken over the reigns of shows on these channels, to the point that we haven’t watched anything on either channel in a good long while.
It’s really disheartening to see a show that we’ve watched pretty religiously (and supported in our own way through our twelve days of TableTop Day) go behind a paywall like this. To be fair, it’s an “advance screening” paywall: the season will finish airing (after two episodes free on YouTube) at the end of January. Holly and I are pretty sure we’re just going to wait until then.
I can kind of understand where they’re coming from with this one, though. Their episodes are heavily edited 30+ minute shows, so more like traditional TV. And they have way fewer views than these other channels – way more than makes sense, given how well gaming culture knows this show! Their need for funding makes sense, and is why a Kickstarter made sense. And maybe because – again – it’s an existing show, it makes sense that they didn’t turn to YouTube Red. Still, if it had been on Red, I’d be tempted.
I don’t know that I understand Alpha at all. There’s something where if you were a Twitch follower for a while you get 6 months free, there’s 1 month free, there’s $4.99… all of that seemingly predicated on being accepted with an Alpha Invite? The exclusivity is perhaps supposed to be exciting but I find it more annoying and boring.
Whoa, okay, I had a lot to say on the topic. Sorry about that! If you’d like a TL;DR, I’d say that if all three of these shows were on one subscription service, along with maybe some others we’d heard about but weren’t as interested in, well, we’d probably subscribe. However, we’re definitely not adding $20 a month to our existing paid subscriptions for the pleasure of watching these three shows!
I mean, it makes sense in a lot of ways too. These shows were looking for funding to exist, and funding from production companies isn’t all in one giant pot. That’s why there’s so many of them, so many channels making TV shows, so many studios making movies. And once you pay to help create the show, you want to be able to get as many of the profits as you can to recoup your costs, and to be able to fund future products. The economics of it make sense.
It’s also a product of the TV subscriptions spiraling apart, I think, too. Those production companies have wised up, and they don’t want to all be tied to one platform or service, where they have to share money with the provider. Why share money with Hulu when you can provide the content yourself? Why share with YouTube Red? Cut out the middle man!
And to be fair, I don’t even know if YouTube Red is willing to “play with others” like that, or if it’s only shows they have produced. Or if they would be willing to do so in the future. Or if they’ve burned bridges and people are turning outwards to others for funding. These questions all seem like they have behind-closed-doors answers, so I don’t feel like looking them up – I think I would find conjecture and rumors.
However, by splitting all up, and all having pay subscriptions, and potentially not being available on our devices to even watch them on the TV… instead of getting us to help fund their shows Kickstarter or Patreon style, they have us just saying “nope” and going back to our existing entertainments.
How about you?