By Liz Shannon Miller
MCN of the Year
When, in July 2013, Chernin Group, Comcast, and WPP invested a reported $30 million in multi-channel network Fullscreen, it wasn’t just a sign of traditional media’s interest in YouTube — Fullscreen indicated its goal of becoming a “global media company.” But what’s actually resulted is the redefinition of a media company in the YouTube space — and it’s why we’ve chosen Fullscreen as the MCN of 2013.
In 2013, there were few better barometers of where things are going for YouTube-based businesses than Fullscreen. The company, founded in 2011 and headed up by CEO George Strompolos (who previously worked directly with creators as a YouTube exec), grew its network of channels, developed a number of scalable resources to help YouTubers monetize content, and innovated in other areas — leaving it well-prepped to take on 2014 and continue to define the current direction of the space.
Strompolos, in an email interview, promised “We have some big plans for 2014 that we’re really excited about.” But its 2013 wasn’t too shabby.
One development that showed foresight for where YouTube companies are going was Fullscreen’s Creator Platform, which launched this summer “to help our talent build their audience, collaborate with each other, and grow their earnings,” said Strompolos.
The Creator Platform is what allows Fullscreen to service its partner channels — all 15,000 of them. When asked if Fullscreen would ever be forced to cap the number of partners it signed up, Strompolos replied “[It] has always been about empowering creators on a global scale, and the infrastructure we’ve built to support them is second-to-none. While there is technically no cap on the number of channels we can support, we like to work with creators who are serious about growing with us.”
Strompolos emphasized the innovation angle — when asked about the Collective and Maker Studios recently acquiring their own platforms (Metacafe and Blip, respectively), he said “It will be interesting to see how these companies make use of their acquisitions over time. Rather than try to recreate what YouTube already does, I think it’s important to innovate and give users something different.”
One example of that: The Creator Platform was upgraded with a social component earlier this month, allowing partners to friend, comment, and network with other Fullscreen creators — and even connect with creators based on similarity of audience.
Major brands took notice of this, another way in which Fullscreen was an industry leader.
At Vidcon 2013, the company actively worked to directly connect brands with YouTubers, providing one-on-one attention that not only helped merge the gap between advertisers and the digital space, but gave it a human angle.
This was followed up, in October, by Fullscreen officially launching a boutique consultancy service, one it had been offering companies for the last two years. Channel+’s clients, which initially included NBCUniversal, GE, and Cartoon Network, get access to features including (on the tech side) a dashboard tracking, measuring, and analyzing their YouTube presence, and (on the human side) individual attention from Fullscreen employees, to help brands better optimize their content.
Another feature included in Channel+ was TotalID, a system allowing brands to monitor any copyrighted material on YouTube that they laid claim to. Which is a bit ironic, as Fullscreen did have to address a lawsuit this fall from the National Music Publishers’ Association over unlicensed cover videos.
Between the music industry and the recent Content ID issues that have taken down or stripped revenue from thousands of channels, copyright issues have become a major problem for all companies in the space — especially given that for many YouTube musicians (including Fullscreen partners), cover videos are a major part of their inventory.
The Fullscreen/NMPA suit was an early milestone in this fall’s ongoing drama between content creators, major corporations, and the YouTube technology that seeks to preserve relationships and avoid lawsuits between the two.
For Fullscreen, it’s a problem that has not yet been resolved, as the NMPA lawsuit is still pending, but Strompolos was positive about the current situation: “We are in productive talks with the NMPA and expect to resolve things in the new year.”
Asked what his proudest moment of 2013 was, Strompolos pointed to VidCon 2013: “Our Summer Upload concert drew a crowd of thousands to see incredible Fullscreen talent like Lindsey Stirling, Tyler Ward, Lohanthony, Max Schneider, Chachi, and the World of Dance Crew. In addition to the concert, our booth was popping and we also held a private event to introduce some brand advertisers to the vibrant world of online video.”
“I was a proud CEO that day.”