The Web has proven itself a capable place to distribute video — Americans watched 14.5 billion videos online in March, according to comScore. But efforts to create original video for the Web are still mostly flat; in a hit-based business, there just aren’t many Web-original hits. (And as far as we can tell, no one’s striking it truly rich yet.)
Instead, the most popular Web videos — and the streams most likely to generate revenue for their producers — are still offline-first productions like TV shows and music videos. That explains why media companies are most interested in deals like Vevo, the music video site YouTube is building with Universal Music Group; and Hulu, which Disney just joined.
- While YouTube is still attracting massive audiences, the majority of its Web-original stuff isn’t making much money. The company boasts about some producers that are doing well, such as MondoMedia. And last year, the company said “hundreds of YouTube partners are making thousands of dollars a month.” But most YouTube producers can’t quit their day jobs.
- Revision3, arguably the most successful Web-first production shops, will be happy to clear $10 million in sales this year, despite a big hit in “Diggnation.” That’s not a trivial amount of money, but it’s nothing like TV.
- Others like Next New Networks, which has raised $23 million, and For Your Imagination, are still looking for their first real hit.
- FunnyOrDie’s most successful video of all time is still one of its first: “The Landlord,” starring Will Ferrell. The next-best video has 1/6 of the views.
Someday, we suppose that someone will figure out the right combination of original Web video content and sponsorship that mints money. And in the meantime, sure, there are some people paying their rent with the ad revenues they earn from Web video. (Let us know if you’re getting fabulously rich!) But despite a lot of investment, the Web-original video production industry is still financially underwhelming.
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