That has not stopped a new class of MCN from stepping up to the plate. It's the Website Curated Network. I'm calling it the WCN. Yup, you saw it here first.
It's a website that curates a lot of videos and even other posts from different sources. It operates outside the permission but with the encouragement of YouTube. It adds editorial value around each video with the aim of becoming a one-stop-shop for viewers - it offers links to useful stuff - and then it takes all that to advertisers in its market and to Google Adsense. And if YouTube bans any of the content, well the website can swap the video element over to Vimeo, Facebook or any of the other TV-embedding social media. The page URL on the website for that content remains the same.
Take WeShoot. It started out as a pure social media website and app based on the look and feel of Facebook. Since GDPR, it has become a hybrid news/social media site. Its main thrust is clayshooting but it covers all shooting sports. It views the world from a user point of view, asking what do you like? You can post your shooting/hunting related content, either directly to WeShoot or via a link from existing site. It even allows you to post via an RSS feed, so you can maintain your presence on YouTube or Facebook and post automatically on WeShoot at the same time. And it fills in the gaps with posts from established media such as the ISSF YouTube channel, which provides excellent coverage of the trapshooting scene. WeShoot was founded and remains funded by clay pigeon trap manufacturer Laporte. It has taken a while to get to where it is, but we believe at Fieldsports Channel that it has a bright future.
Another good one is HuntMag.eu. As well as original content, it's a place to curate what's going on in hunting across Europe, which gives it a pan-European campaigning edge. There is enough original content to make it a destination in its own right, and enough curated content to give it critical mass as an authoritative source. It is a pure news site and curates other, suitable videos and posts to reflect its editorial 'promise'. It is produced from Malta in multiple languages.
In Germany, our favourite is Geartester.de. Its editorial promise is good quality, honest tests of outdoor/hunting/shooting gear, which again comes from curated content as well as direct posts to the site.
These three websites provide 'honesty of basis'. From a consumer point of view, they have clear editorial direction, and from a subscriber point of view, they hold nothing back from the user. There are no secret password-protected areas that break the sense of trust a viewer has to have with a website.
This is where we are going with FieldsportsChannel.tv. We produce enough content every week to make us a destination in our own right, but we also have news programmes that call on videos and pictures from across the web and help give us 'news currency'.
There are plenty of new websites with one foot in the past, reflecting the 1990s when scheduled TV was normal and viewing figures opaque. New from the USA, GEN7 Outdoors streams scheduled outdoor programming 24/7 in 1080 HD using Streamotor.com and on to outlets suck as Roku. Each episode is aired three times a week, morning, afternoon and prime-time. All show’s past episodes are available on demand for 12 months. As the TV business shows again and again, the tactics of the past continue to make money. Audiences are slow to change their viewing habits.
GEN7 consists of TV shows such as Camo Crusade and Real Outdoors USA. At time of writing it claims 6.6m web-based views, 4.4m via TV apps and 2.1m elsewhere. This level of popularity is not borne out by its YouTube presence, which currently has just 86 subscribers, but I'll leave GEN7 to back up its claims.
The trend towards WCNs is not all carrot. There is stick, too. Hunters and shooters have a strong belief that YouTube is anti-hunting/shooting. After a flurry of community strikes earlier in 2018, there is little evidence of that now. But that's why Sootch00 went to GetZone.com, which currently hosts films using just JWPlayer.
So how do these WCNs make money? The answer is off-YouTube deals.
Formerly against YouTube's terms of service, throughout 2018, YouTube has been more and more happy to allow channels to make off-YouTube deals. The bosses at Google, which owns YouTube, realise that encouraging channels to talk to advertisers produces greater engagement from advertisers with YouTube. Fieldsports Channel makes almost all of its income from product placement deals.
There was a time when that would have had an impact on our editorial integrity. I ran the theatre at the Game Fair this year (2018) and asked the audience for a show of hands on this one: does it bother you that our videos are funded by product placement? They said no. They are quite capable of ignoring the products and enjoying the narrative anyway.
There are problems for being a WCN over a pure YouTube channel. When competing for ad dollars, it is a significant problem for these new websites that they have no standardised or believable method of viewcounting in the way Google/YouTube provides. The best they can do is aggregate the views they get on their member YouTube channels. Our viewcount on YouTube is more than 100 million and only 4% of those are embedded in external websites and apps, so we know we are a long way from making our website the core of our business.
The next step is for the WCNs to wake up to their position as, each one of them, a mini Netflix. Currently, TV viewers may construct their evening's viewing around cruising around YouTube or Netflix or the new website content curators. As WCNs and top quality channels now count their videos in the 1000s, viewers will learn to spend an evening on just one of them.
A quick word about subscription sites
Many video publishers look at this market and decide that viewer subscription is the way to deal with it. They don't need to initiate and maintain personal relationships with advertisers. It's a nice, clean, mass-market ad proposition: put €1 into the advertising machine and take €9.99 subscriptions out of the tray at the bottom.
Bearplay.tv is a new one, which serves the Scandinavian hunting market. Made up of broadcasters including Rasmus Boström and his dogs, the Bravader Brothers and Kristoffer Clausen, it collaborates closely with some of Nordic’s largest hunting magazines, such as Jaktjournalen+Jägare, Jaktmarker+Fiskevatten and the online magazine Vildmarken. You pay US$4.99/month to view. It goes up against Jaktflix.se which charges SKr42/month for its subscription TV.
Subscription works for Netflix and Amazon but we believe that, long term, it will not work in specialist consumer markets. Too many people in subscription TV are pointing to the good old days, pre-YouTube, when you could expect 20,000 people to pay you €15/month. YouTube has removed that market.
We hope to be proved wrong. If we are right, it remains to be seen whether these subscription channels will be able to make the jump to being ad-funded channels. But they are certainly well-placed to aggregate content from a number of YouTube and other TV producers, and make that pitch to advertisers.