We don’t often get a window into the earnings of YouTube stars. YouTube is a perfect platform for oversharers, and some its most successful stars are also its most unfiltered personalities. However, there is one topic that almost always goes unmentioned: money. This week we got some rare insight into that very subject. The Wall Street Journal has crunched the numbers for its profile of YouTube chart topper Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, estimating that the horror gaming Swede brought in over $4 million in advertising revenue last year alone.
Earnings like that won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of gaming-related content. Gamers, for which Kjellberg is the obvious poster-boy, are one of YouTube’s fastest growing and most popular content verticals. By some estimates, gameplay video is the second most commonly uploaded content type uploaded across active channels on a daily basis.
Gaming, thus far, has also been one of the most perplexing forms of digital content for traditional media experts. Last year when PewDiePie began his ascent to the top of the YouTube heap, Variety ran a report titled “If PewDiePie Is YouTube’s Top Talent, We’re All Doomed.” On paper, you can understand why. If someone had told us 10 years ago that the most popular thing on the internet was going to be a 20-something Swedish guy who swears like a sailor while playing video games, we too might have been skeptical. But while opinions can lie, numbers do not. Gaming content is on the rise and most definitely here to stay, a reality that the industry is just now starting to embrace.
YouTube, and its corporate parent Google, have historically been ahead of many trends, but their relationship with gamers has been a rocky one. At the end of last year the video giant released new content ID protocols that lead to the take-down of thousands of game play videos on copyright grounds. While the more stringent enforcement guidelines angered the gaming community, they also paved the way for less contentious relationships with advertisers and game makers, both of whom stand to benefit from the hype generated by YouTube gamers.
This spring, YouTube tried to make nice with gamers, or at least make sure they had nowhere else to go, with rumored overtures to purchase the gameplay streaming platform Twitch. Twitch is both YouTube’s rival in the gaming market and also a valuable supplement to the content that gaming creators post on YouTube. The rumored purchase of Twitch to the tune of $1 billion is a massive vote of confidence in the future of the gaming content vertical.
As for PewDiePie himself, he’s signed to Maker Studios, the YouTube network recently acquired by Disney. As the most subscribed independent creator on YouTube it seems likely the masterminds of the Mouse will be looking for new ways to leverage his popularity to promote their own digital offerings. If all goes according to plan Pewds may want to invest in an even bigger check book for next year.